These things are not tied with a pink ribbon (Breast Cancer Awareness Month)

October 9th, 2012 § 22 comments

I hate October now. I don’t even like the color pink anymore. I get cranky in the last days of September when I start seeing everything from toilet paper to staplers colored pink and sporting a pink ribbon. It’s not that I don’t want attention called to the disease that affects so many people including me; it’s more that I think the focus has gotten misplaced. I don’t support Susan G. Komen Foundation anymore; I think they have lost their way. There is good research going on in many places, but I have come to question the line between commerce and research with Komen’s support of everything from Kentucky Fried Chicken to alcoholic beverages to its own perfume while simultaneously trying to prevent anyone else from using the phrase “For the Cure” (see my post on why I divorced the Komen Foundation years ago here). What happened to thinking we are all in this together, trying to achieve the same goals?

When I originally wrote it I tried to think about awareness and what it means to me. I wanted to explain why pink ribbons didn’t mean awareness; I wanted to capture the emotional side of this disease. I re-post it every year. Now, with my new diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, it’s time to share it again.


I wish I had the energy of my youth.
I wish I had the body.
I wish I had the fearlessness, the spunk, the drive.

I wish I could have a conversation with that young girl,
bright-eyed and full of wonder.
I wish I could tell her what lay ahead.

I wish I could tell her to gather strength, and wisdom, and patience like a squirrel gathering acorns for the winter.
“Save those things up,” I’d say, “you are going to need them… every last bit.”
I wish I could share the perspective I’ve gained along with all of the love.

But I can’t go back to that time,
I can’t go back to that place.
I can’t rewrite what’s happened,
I can’t do it all again.

I guess I must have done something right along the way for when it came time to fight I did,
and I did it well.
But that struggle took its toll on me and I am quite sure I will never, ever be the same.

You tell yourself “they’re only breasts.”
You say, “I don’t need ovaries, I’m done having children.”
But that obscures the truth.
The truth is that it does matter,
they do matter.
They say my uterus is atrophied.
It almost sounds funny when you say it.

“Who cares? What does that matter?”
It does. It does. It does.
To get rid of all hormones gives me a better chance at avoiding a recurrence, but there is a price to be paid.
No estrogen matters more than I ever thought it could.

It feels worse than taking injections to suppress my ovaries, worse than taking Tamoxifen. Those were easy. I had no clue what was ahead.

I wear the skirt, I put the makeup on, I walk the walk.
But I do not feel like a woman anymore.
I’m proud of what this body has done for me:
3 beautiful children,
surviving cancer,
healing the broken bones, the infections, the autoimmune diseases.
There is no week without migraines,
no cold winter day without icy implants.

Beneath the pretty lies ugly,
the ugly truth of cancer
and what it has taken from me.

While some may be able to go on,
move on,
I cannot.
My body will not let me.

These things are not tied with a pink ribbon.

These things last longer than a month.
This is part of awareness.

This is part of what breast cancer can do.
This is what it has done to me.

§ 22 Responses to These things are not tied with a pink ribbon (Breast Cancer Awareness Month)"

  • Abbey says:

    Eloquent and elegant as always, Lisa. And totally on point. xxo

  • Shari says:

    I just reposted this to my own facebook page last evening. Certainly fitting to revisit this now. Thoughts with you. Always.

  • denise says:

    I read this last year. I loved reading it again this year. What I support is YOU. I am here for you. xoxoxo

  • robin says:

    lisa -just posted this to my fb page. i remember reading a piece that i loved (and the author’s name escapes me at the moment but i did save the article) about this over-doing of the pink the commercial side etc and i am totally with you on this.
    i have you and your family in my thoughts with love xo

  • Marisa says:

    Raw and potent. What a cruel disease. Thinking of you and hoping…

  • Laura Vuchetich says:

    I watch football (I know you do not), and every game irks me this month. The pink shoes and sweatbands and caps and water bottles, and, and, and…not only does it have nothing to do with breast cancer, but I also can’t help wondering what all that pink gear costs the NFL. I know it’s good PR for them, too (“Yes, this sport is for women, too.”) and I get that line of thinking for them; but I sure would rather they put those …. gosh, it must be into the 100s of 1000s of dollars….I wish they’d put that money into giving directly to research. I also wonder if the average football viewer thinks they’re doing their part just by watching an NFL game. Instead of spurring people to give, it might have the opposite effect: “My sport is doing my giving for me.” I doubt that could be measured, but it wouldn’t surprise me. When you say that the cause has lost its focus, that is a massive understatement!

  • Mariette says:

    Not to mention that all the pink in the world will not clean up groundwater, reduce toxins in our food or reduce the stress that contribute to overall wellness. Pink plastic does not equal a cure. Thank you, for such a lovely post.

  • Josh says:

    keep fighting the good fight–avoid the noise, and keep sharing your words/wisdom/opinions with the world

  • I wish you’d write Ellen and tell her to stop supporting Susan G. Komen. For as political as she is, she didn’t get the memo on them. I agree with you, there are plenty of other organizations that do the work and don’t spend money on branding themselves.

    I wish you’d go to and download (for $5) comedian Tig Notaro’s 30 minute standup routine to an audience, telling them she has cancer in both breasts. And that her mother just died and then she broke up with someone. All in the space of less than a month. It’s heartwarming, brave and very, very funny. She found a way to make it funny. My favorite part (among many) is when she says people are now afraid to talk to her about mundane things. Anyway, it’s inspirational. It’s been all over the web, so you might have already heard of it, Buzz Feed broke it first.

    Go, laugh.

  • Oh, Lisa….
    I’m going to stay out of the conversation about the pinking of the disease. I’ve been fairly vocal all over the place in a short span of time. Not going to repeat myself here. Instead… am wrapping you in a blanket of love. I read your poetry, I see what you have had done in the name of reducing risk and I know the outcome. This breaks my heart. I can’t imagine how poignant, difficult, saddened…. I really can’t even imagine the emotions you must be feeling when I come right down to it…… that you experience as you read back over the things you have written. To have one dividing line in the sand is one thing. To have the interlude, your blog posts and then, yet another, even more difficult line drawn is, for me, unimaginable. I’m not in your shoes. But know this, I walk beside you if you need steadying and I walk behind you if you need support. And, I send you love.

  • I thought of you yesterday when there were two pink-beribboned ads on a post I was reading. I felt angry.

    For those who don’t know the history of breast cancer awareness — how it started and what it has been transformed into — this is an excellent post: Pinkification, Commodification, and the Failure to Adapt – this ain’t livin’

  • aswinn says:

    You’re such a gifted, beautiful writer, Lisa. Thanks for sharing this. xoxo

  • Judith Hill says:

    Your writing has such meaning to so many which includes me . Thank you…

  • Becky says:

    Love you deeply.

  • […] we bring you an interesting, apolitical angle from blogger and breast cancer survivor Lisa Bonchek Adams. She believes that the Komen group lost […]

  • Thank you for the reminder its not about ‘pink’ or ‘pink ribbons’ or even October. It about women living real lives and sharing real stories – The truth, how cancer robs so much more of us than in medical terms. Yes Beast Cancer Awareness Month, sadly has become as over commercialism as Christmas and its message is slowly being eroded.

  • The Accidental Amazon says:

    So with you on this subject, Lisa. Tried to leave a comment on your recent post, but I don’t think it went through. I can barely talk about it this year, because it infuriates me so much that we still have to explain to anyone why we find this offensive. Sending you love & understanding.

  • […] since. Lisa Adams, on the other hand, doesn’t like the war metaphor any more than she does pink ribbons or breast cancer awareness Facebook games and her approach to cancer treatment is not completely […]

  • […] So really, let’s not forget that a pink ribbon is no substitute for education and progress. […]

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