I ranted through the month of October about how I despise “awareness” and the overload of pink.
I have several friends who have been afflicted with OTHER cancers: ovarian cancer; brain cancer; tongue cancer; lymphoma; colon cancer; melanoma; leukemia; pancreatic cancer and multiple myeloma.
I wonder if they view the month of October with just a bit of jealousy or even anger. As much as I’ve pointed out the need for more research for metastatic breast cancer, breast cancer still receives much more funding and promotion than any other cancer (the only possible exception I can think of is childhood cancer thanks to the efforts of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital).
I know one of my friends who has survived ovarian cancer is working to change the lack of awareness. She’s involved with an organization called Survivors Teaching Students which educates students in the medical disciplines in schools across the country, using the stories of over 700 survivor volunteers. You see, ovarian cancer mimics other vague diagnoses, including constipation and gastritis, and usually is not diagnosed before Stage III, when it has already spread to lymph nodes. There’s no “lump” that can be found. There’s no skin changes to observe.
The friend of mine with tongue cancer was first told when she was pregnant. During a routine dental exam, her dentist said, “hmmmm, this doesn’t look right.” and referred her for more evaluation. And now she has had several surgeries because she has been so closely followed for the past 6 years.
Yes, I can live with a misshapen breast. My friend with ovarian cancer can live without her ovaries and uterus (although she’ll never be able to have her own biological children). My friend with tongue cancer can live without parts of her tongue. My friend with brain cancer sports a phenomenal scar. My friend with colon cancer has lost quite a bit of weight through her current treatment and has days where she doesn’t want to be more than 60 seconds from a toilet. My friend with lymphoma has permanent damage to her respiratory system thanks to radiation. My friends with melanoma had surgeries with large resulting scars and one was actually told that “you’re not really a cancer survivor – you didn’t have to have chemo or anything, just surgery”.
However, none of my friends have entire months where their particular “ribbon color” is plastered throughout the stores. Teal for ovarian cancer is becoming more prevalent in September, but no-one is plastering teal ovaries on their bodies. Who has seen grey brains floating around the stores in May? Or black ribbons for skin cancer in May? Has anyone seen a dark blue colon in March? Have you seen buildings lit up in lime green for lymphoma in September?
Is the NBA, NHL, MLB or NFL adding teal, dark blue or lime green to their uniforms (similar to the pink towels/socks/gloves)? If so, please let me know, because I sure haven’t seen it!
Is it because those aren’t the so-called sexy cancers? Or because they haven’t yet reached the over-saturation of awareness that breast cancer has? Okay, not everyone has ovaries, but none of us could have been born without them. EVERYONE has a colon, skin, lymph nodes and a brain.
I wonder if these other cancers will get more attention? Once they do, will my friends be satisfied with awareness? I wonder if they too will want more than a ribbon?