Well, we made it through Pinktober, and past the parades of pink ribbon crap, and people bragging about how they're "helping" the cause. But what really happened during the month of October to actually help breast cancer? Was it enough? Did someone find a cure? Did someone find a promising new treatment? Did a higher percentage of women, and men, do self exams and share the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer (which can be found at ERASEIBC.org, theibcnetwork.org and ibcresearch.org/symptoms)?
Not that I know of. In fact, people seem to be less aware than ever. The thinking, from where I'm sitting anyway, seems to be "I'll buy something pink, the money must go somewhere that helps, therefore, I helped." But that's WRONG. As I said in my last post, the money you spend on pink ribbon merchandise rarely goes beyond the company you purchased the item from. So no, unless you send the money directly to an organization you know for a fact uses it for research purposes, you are not, in fact, helping. And now that October's over, I guess your wallets are safe too, right? Wrong again. Research (you know, the thing that may actually help us find a cure for cancer) is an ongoing thing. So great, you gave money to an organization in October, but, ya know what, they need more, every month of the year.
Before it became a farce, breast cancer awareness month started out as a way to actually make people aware of breast cancer. It's supposed to be a learning experience, an opportunity for people to understand the symptoms of breast cancer and empower and arm themselves with the knowledge to recognize when their own bodies are turning against them. To drill home the fact that anyone, at any age, can get cancer. A way for people to realize and, ya know, become aware, of the fact that not all breast cancers (like IBC) present with a lump. To teach them that instead of just casually running a hand over their skin they need to check for other symptoms, such as redness, swelling, inverted nipple, and ANY changes to the breasts. And to instill in them the confidence to be their own advocates and insist on being heard by their doctors. Crazy, right? But now, it's as though people are too afraid of the reality of breast cancer and think making it pink and cheerful will help mask the fact that breast cancer still kills people on a daily basis.
People go around showing off their new pink swag like they're the bee's knees, but ask them what the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer are, or if they've heard of triple negative breast cancer, or lymphedema, and you'll get a blank stare and a change of subject. Thinking you are becoming more aware is a hell of a lot different than actually being more aware. Squeezing in a glance over the symptoms of breast cancer (see above), in between pictures of cats, and complaining about Miley Cyrus, and actually taking it to heart and knowing what to look for as you perform self exams, are completely different. It's not a joke. It's real. It's as easy for you to be in denial as it is for the cancer to sneak into you. But you're stronger than cancer. You have a brain that, when actually used, can do amazing things, like make you aware of the threat that hangs over society. And no, I'm not still talking about Miley Cyrus. I'm talking about cancer.
And now that October is over, now what? I guess we move onto another color and pretend we're helping that type of cancer, right? Wrong again. Breast cancer can show up any minute of any hour of any day of any month. So can any other type of cancer. You don't a get a fresh start on November 1st. You're not in the clear until next October. You are ALWAYS a target for the cancer arrow to bury it's point in. So keep checking those boobs, keep telling your friends and family, and hell, even strangers on the street, about the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer, and arm yourself, shield yourself, before the cancer finds you. And, even though the best awareness can't prevent cancer from attacking you, knowledge is power, and will only make you stronger, and better prepared to fight it if it does.