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Thinking Pink

Friday, October 11, 2013/Number of views (2874)/Comments (15)

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Confession time. I am annoyed by the pink. Then I am guilty about being annoyed. And I am a little confused about why I feel this way. So I gave it a lot of thought.
Last sunday,  I was watching football, as I almost always do, and saw an ad/public service announcement on behalf of the NFL and the American CancerSociety about breast cancer. A woman was explaining that she was a football fan and that one year when she was watching the players wear pink, she gave herself a breast exam and found a lump. She extolled the NFL "crucial catch" program as a lifesaver. I will admit, for some reason I felt resentful. Why? How could I feel this way?

First, let me say that I am not alone. As the pink tide has permeated marketing and products at every turn, there has been a low grade grumbling on the ovarian cancer bulletin boards. Some of us even have breast cancer as well. We are nice, caring people -- so why the discontent?

I surely wish only the best for my pink sisters. Any cancer diagnosis is terrifying, and breast cancer touches ten times the women that ovarian cancer does. That is a lot of women. But it is less deadly than ovarian. The five year survival rate for breast cancer from 2003-2009 is 89%. For that same time period, the survival rate for ovarian cancer was 44%. Breast cancer mortality has been declining, but unfortunately, ovarian cancer rates have stayed about the same for thirty years. Don't we need the publicity, too?

So is that what this is about, being left out of the party? Are these the same feelings that I had in middle school when the cool girls sat a different table in the lunch room? Am I that petty? 

Do all the other women in the ovarian chat rooms have remnant feelings of being left behind the cheerleaders? Honestly, maybe a little. I want my cancer recognized -- I want the choice of a teal umbrella, not just a pink one. I want the commercial community to step beyond the marketing numbers (think about it, there are a lot more breast cancer survivors to buy their products than there are ovarian cancer survivors) and do the right thing for women. Spread the love around. Can you imagine how many women would learn about the symptoms of ovarian cancer if the NFL just took one day, not even a whole month, and publicized it? It would be monumental. It would be lifesaving, and it would be truly caring.

It would also help get ovaries "out of the closet." There was a time when people did not talk about breast cancer, remember the Mad Men episode when Betty had a scare. It was a dirty secret. The breast cancer awareness folks have done a wonderful job of making that subject accessible and no longer taboo. Conversations about ovaries don't seem to be dinner conversation yet. Breasts are beautiful. Ovaries look like walnuts. 

I also have an uneasy feeling that breast cancer is getting used by big business a bit. It is just so vogue to say that your business supports breast cancer awareness.  Some efforts don't seem to be all that meaningful -- just slap a pink ribbon on your carton of trash bags and pat yourself on the back. Are all these companies truly making a real contribution? Again, am I jealous? Yeah, I am. I wanna be supported, too. I want to feel like the world is working on the cancer that is trying to kill me and all the wonderful women that I have met during this struggle.

I ask the wonderful folks that work hard on breast cancer awareness to reach out to their teal sisters and pull us up with you. It is not just the compassionate thing to do, but a smart one. Why? Because we are finding out that cancers are going to be treated successfully in categories that defy type. My ovarian cancer may look more like a stranger's kidney cancer than it looks like the ovarian cancer in the woman seated next to me in the waiting room. We know that there are similarities between certain ovarian cancers and breast cancers. All research in cancer will be benefitting other cancers. We are more connected than it was ever thought. Helping each other IS helping ourselves.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am so grateful for all the research that has happened in the breast cancer realm -- those breakthroughs have directly benefitted me. As a BRCA positive person, I am actually likely to get breast cancer, so I may one day be adorning myself in pink too, and the irony is not lost on me. I thank the breast cancer folks for blowing open the door of awareness for women's cancer. I just want to follow in their footsteps through that door. Hopefully there will be room for us too, on the shoelaces of running backs and the ties of the announcers. Because, actually, everyone looks great in teal.
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15 comments on article "Thinking Pink"

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Adele

10/11/2013 4:01 PM

As a breast cancer and ovarian cancer survivor with the BRCA2 gene mutation, I would like to say that I hear you loud and clear. Well said!


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Adele

10/11/2013 4:01 PM

As a breast cancer and ovarian cancer survivor with the BRCA2 gene mutation, I would like to say that I hear you loud and clear. Well said!


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Jennifer

10/11/2013 6:17 PM

Thank you thank you thank you for writing what i've been thinking for years. If you're not feeling your own boobs chances are high that someone else is and if something is awry you'll notice! However, who's feeling up anyone's ovaries! I too feel guilty for not feeling guilty about PINK month. Ovarian cancer is so horrific...thank you for sharing your thoughts :)


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Traci

10/11/2013 8:34 PM

Thanks for writing this and putting into words what others are feeling too. Well said.


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puddingjar

10/12/2013 8:00 AM

could not agree more.


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Deborah Liles

10/12/2013 9:00 AM

Thank you very much for the support of Ovarian Cancer very close to my heart. I lost my 27 year old niece to Ovarian Cancer in 2010.


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kathleen

10/12/2013 9:01 AM

I'm an ovarian cancer stage 3C survivor and a BRCA1+. With a PBLM~bi lateral mastectomy i hope to avoid the pink ribbon. Pink and Teal to together like a lock and key!!


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Will

10/12/2013 10:08 AM

Komen's Pink campaign is bad: http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/the-stream/the-latest/2013/10/11/buying-pink.html


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Donna

10/12/2013 4:18 PM

As a women's health care provider. I support all efforts to increase awareness of cancers. There is truly a connection between breast and ovarian cancer in many people. I love the idea of a pink and teal ribbon.Another cancer women ( and Men) need to be aware of is skin cancer, melanoma in particular which has also a high mortality rate with no cure. See your dermatologist yearly. ,,!


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candidaboutcancer

10/13/2013 4:32 PM

Every woman on both sides of my family has had breast cancer twice 'cept for one and I'm BRCA1. I thought I was destined for breast cancer (I may still be) but it was ovarian that got to me first. I appreciate your thoughts SOOOO much. Thank you for your post.


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Marcy

10/17/2013 8:17 AM

This is great. I would love to repost on my blog. Let me know if that would be ok. Thanks!

warmly, marcy

http://livinglydying.com/


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Trudie

10/21/2013 2:30 AM

I too am conflicted. I do think it is over commercialized through product labeling and that many products carry the pink ribbon without contributing anything meaningful.

At first I thought we should grow the September teal awareness. But why should we start from scratch? We should jump on the Pinktober compaign with ovarian cancer awareness and ride their coat tails. There's already an audience out there. How do we get the pink and teal ribbon medley into it?


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Jennifer kempker

10/23/2013 3:00 PM

I wish this letter could be sent around the country. It is wonderful!!! I thinks people would feel what we have been feeling!


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Karen Nugent

4/16/2014 3:13 PM

I to feel the same way you do. I am a 7 1/2 year Stage IIIc Ovarian Cancer Survivor. Im glad breast cancer gets so much acknowledgement but would like that support for Ovarian cancer and others as well. I wish a sport team would adopt us. Id also like some food companies to support us. Maybe we need to start sending letters to companies.


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Whitney Burton

10/14/2014 11:51 AM

Love this post. Completely speaks to how I am feeling about this pink stuff. Thanks for posting.

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