Author: Julie Matthews
April 19, 2010
Is it possible to have too much awareness? For breast cancer, that is. Blog posts, forums and informal conversations suggest that perhaps it is possible. It is apparent that many people believe there is too much pink and too much focus on breast cancer. Are breast cancer organizations usurping funds from other worthy causes? As a leukemia survivor, sure, it’s crossed my mind, but then I have The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society behind me, and I would say it’s just as well-known as any breast cancer organization.
People don’t seem to be upset about blood cancer awareness however. Let’s try something: do you know the colors aligned with leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma? They are orange, red and burgundy, respectively. What about breast cancer? That’s right…pink! I’m pretty sure everyone got that one because it is, after all, advertised on pink packaging in supermarkets, clothing stores, even baseball bats in Major League Baseball, to mention only a few. Matthew Zachary, blogger and founder of “I’m Too Young for This! Cancer Foundation”, refers to this phenomenon as the “pink nausea movement”.
I get it. I really do. I too wonder how much money from the pink products is siphoned through to actual breast cancer research. I appreciate the many, many diseases that languish in the shadows of an all-encompassing pink. Yet I do not feel resentful.
I worry, of course, about all diseases. My cousin has struggled with systemic lupus for over a decade, and her pain and suffering is ten times that of many cancer patients I’ve met (myself included). Another cousin lived with multiple sclerosis for half her life before succumbing to the disease a few years ago. My friend’s nephew has cystic fibrosis, and the expected life span for patients with this disease who live to adulthood is only 35 years. Still, I am not resentful. I think the movement for breast cancer awareness somehow stumbled upon a winning formula for publicity.
Organizations such as Estée Lauder, Avon and Susan G. Komen for the Cure managed to brand a disease, although many people dislike their pink-spewing, ribbon-flaunting philosophy. It seems disturbing and impressive at once, disturbing because it feels wrong to brand a disease, but impressive because they truly did spawn a movement that forced everyone to notice breast cancer.
Maybe I’m an optimist. Who am I kidding? I’m absolutely an optimist! If you have a cause worth supporting, then do so! It doesn’t matter how big or small your movement or whether it has a color designation. I just can’t subscribe to the school of thought that because breast cancer has so much support, other diseases do not. Perhaps the reason for its support is the incidence of breast cancer; everyone knows someone who has or had breast cancer. The American Cancer Society lists a woman’s lifetime probability of developing breast cancer as one in eight. Either way, proponents for breast cancer awareness are not maligning all other diseases; they’re simply a large group of people passionate about their cause and fortunate (or unfortunate, considering the reason for their passion) to have incredible support.
For me, it boils down to the act of doing. Doing brings awareness, and if you get caught up in how much awareness you create versus that of other groups, you will never feel satisfied. Perhaps Edward Everett Hale said it best: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something, and I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can.”
As for all the pink, well, Side-Out adopts the color because it is widely accepted as the unifying shade of breast cancer. We raise our funds through volleyball, and any sports fan knows the importance of color to band together players and fans. Donning similar garb is fun, it tells everyone of our cause and it reminds us of the importance of teamwork, both on and off the courts. You will notice that we do not have many ribbons in our campaigns, but rather a stylish Dig Pink® logo that we believe symbolizes the spirit of our events: fun, vibrant and radiating. The fact that we’re raising money for a good cause feels like a bonus.