Think Pink, But Don’t Forget the Other Colors

pink-ribbonToday marks the start of breast cancer awareness month. Over the next month we’ll see a flood of media information reminding women to have mammograms. We will also be asked to participate in a variety of events, donate money for breast cancer research, and spread the word about the disease. As a now 12-year survivor of breast cancer, I can only say that this is a very good thing.

I was “lucky” enough to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a time when early diagnosis was possible, when there were many treatment options available, and when women and men were willing to talk openly about the disease and offer help and support to breast cancer survivors. This is a good thing. It wasn’t always the case.

There was a time, not so long ago, when people talked about breast cancer — in fact all kinds of cancers — in hushed voices, almost as if the woman with breast cancer had done something wrong. This was a time when breast cancer was found very late, when the prognosis was very poor, and when the treatment options, if any, were limited. Because of the efforts of countless brave breast cancer survivors and their families and friends, as well as many dedicated medical professionals, we live in a very different world today. A world where we actually have a month devoted to breast cancer awareness.

You can be assured that I will wear pink proudly, and frequently this month. You can also be assured that I will remind my friends to get their yearly mammograms. We can all do our part. If you’re under 40 (or under 50, depending on the recommended standard for mammograms in your country), please ask your mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and older friends if they’ve had their yearly mammogram. If you’re over the recommended age and haven’t had your yearly mammogram, please consider making an appointment soon.

But as much as the situation has changed for breast cancer, it hasn’t changed quite as much for some of the other cancers that we women can also get. Did you know that September was ovarian cancer awareness month? I couldn’t forget, because one of my friends conducted a personal campaign on Facebook to remind and inform all of her friends on a daily basis about the disease. She changed her FB avatar to a teal ribbon (the color for ovarian cancer awareness) and each day put up a fact, story, or quiz about ovarian cancer.

Just how far we’ve come with the treatment of breast cancer and breast cancer survivors, and how far we have to go with survivors of other cancers, personally hit home when I was diagnosed with colon cancer a few years ago. At one point I talked to a counselor and said how disappointed I was that many of my friends, family, and colleagues were far less willing to talk to me about colon cancer than they’d been to talk about breast cancer. I was also disappointed to learn that there weren’t any colon cancer support groups in my community. The counselor said that many women who are survivors of other cancers come to have “breast cancer envy.” She said it sounds like a very odd term, but what they’re longing for is the support and information that has come to be so readily available to breast cancer survivors.

So, rejoice at how far we’ve come with breast cancer, be aware that we have a long way to go. But also, please don’t forget all of the other cancers that we can also fall victim to. For me, I’ll be back here in March reminding you about colon cancer awareness month.

LinnieGayl, 12 year breast cancer survivor, 2 1/2 year colon cancer survivor

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9 Responses to “Think Pink, But Don’t Forget the Other Colors”

  1. Tee says:

    We talk a lot about heroes and heroines on this site in our message boards, blogs and whatever. To me, the true heroes and heroines are the everyday people we all know who have triumphed over their personal challenges—challenges that they never asked for, but were presented with just the same. So, congratulations to you, LinnieGayl, and thank you for being up-front with this topic so that we can see that battles are being won and that being aware is the first step.

    Most families do not escape at least one bout with cancer. Becoming afraid and trying to sweep it into a corner just doesn’t work. Being on the offensive gives us opportunities to try to prevent many forms of it. But even when that fails, and one is diagnosed with cancer, then all the heroes and heroines we have known personally come to the forefront in our minds and we realize how much support there is and we have true and good examples to follow. And all the positive examples include not being afraid to discuss it as the #1 item.

  2. Missie says:

    Tee: We talk a lot about heroes and heroines on this site in our message boards, blogs and whatever. To me, the true heroes and heroines are the everyday people we all know who have triumphed over their personal challenges—challenges that they never asked for, but were presented with just the same. So, congratulations to you, LinnieGayl, and thank you for being up-front with this topic so that we can see that battles are being won and that being aware is the first step.

    Here, here, Tee!

    Linnie, the “breast cancer envy” totally makes sense. It’s the movement that kind of kicked things off and so is ahead in society’s consciousness. The others are gaining ground, though, slowly but surely.

    And I am grateful every day that you are here to remind us. Thank you for starting the conversation and thank you for keeping it going. :-) *hugs*

  3. LinnieGayl says:

    Thanks, Tee and Missie! I really never wanted to be the person to have two different forms of cancer. But if I have to be that person, I definitely want to be the one who survives both (and really, really, really don’t want a third!). I now just want to do what I can to help others get the earliest diagnosis possible.

  4. Wendy says:

    Thanks for the excellent message! One of our local hospitals has a cancer treatment center, and last night was the annual Bra Ha Ha. The men on the hospital foundation board all wore ties, the print of which was little pink bras. The strides made in breast cancer research and treatment are due in part to the success of the pink ribbon campaign. Breast cancer awareness has heightened awareness of other cancers too. It’s all for the good. Keep up the good talk!

  5. LeeB. says:

    Thanks for this blog LinnieGayl and congratulations on being a cancer survivor twice.

  6. LinnieGayl says:

    Thanks, Wendy and Lee.

  7. Mary says:

    Great message! I’m glad you are talking! and super glad you were smart enough to talk to someone when your friends and co-workers weren’t willing to talk about colon cancer.

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