Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What color is my ribbon supposed to be?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Suddenly the month that used to be about oranges and browns, is all about pink. Why is that? 

How does one form of cancer gain a higher profile than another form of cancer? I know that breast cancer doesn't have the highest mortality rate - that's lung cancer (their awareness month is November). The last list I saw had breast cancer at number five. So how does breast cancer get so much press?

I think it is the combination of various factors - marketing, money, community and women.  

The Susan G. Komen Foundation is responsible for the marketing and the money. They have been brilliant on how they have brought their story and the stories of thousand of women to the media. They have amazing fundraising efforts - both event-related fundraising and major gift fundraising from philanthropic individuals and foundations.  Their events such as the "Race for the Cure" raise both dollars and visibility. Komen started the pink ribbon campaign. All I can say is kudos to this amazing organization. 

The last two factors are really inter-connected.  Breast cancer has a higher profile because a community of women have bonded together to face this disease head on. Survivors reach out to newly diagnosed women and those going through treatment. They give them the message you are not alone and we're proof that you can survive this disease. The more women who joined this unregistered sisterhood, the stronger it became. The survivors carry the Komen message forward and become advocates for breast cancer awareness and research. 

(I have plenty of friends who have battled this disease and, blessedly most have beaten it.  And I don't want them to think that this blog post is to diminish their experience because that is certainly not the case.  This is just me wondering out loud.)

I think the "women" part of the equation is most important. Our gender usually shares more of ourselves with other women. I'm not sure if a brotherhood has been created among the men who have survived lung cancer or colon-rectal cancer.

I did notice that the most outspoken advocate and fundraiser for colon-rectal cancer is a woman. Katie Couric lost her husband to the disease and has been speaking out ever since.  Women are just natural advocates and you'd be smart not to mess with any of us when we have found our calling!

When my sister was battling esophageal cancer two years ago, I didn't hear of any esophageal cancers survivors reaching out to her.  I couldn't find an esophageal cancer month or find out if they even have a ribbon. That being said, I did notice that the cancer survivors who did reach out to my sister and supported her were mostly breast cancer survivors. And a big thank you to them!

Cancer is a sucky, horrible disease that we all need to battle against, regardless of the type.


Lynne Hartke said...

Good thoughts! Thanks for posting. Women united under a cause are unbeatable and unstoppable.

Krystal said...


The Army of Women is also a great organization, worth mentioning as they are attempting to pull together women from everywhere as a knowledge pool.

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