Ask any eight-year-old about a pink ribbon and I can guarantee you the child can correlate the image to breast cancer. The pink ribbon has been a meaningful symbol for decades. I applaud the marketing efforts of opportunistic corporations. It’s genius, really, to capitalize on our emotional fear of cancer and to encourage purchases of pink products to “make the scary cancer go away.” In reality, pink ribbons are used to increase sales. It’s misleading. The consumer receives a false sense of comfort and confirmation that she is helping her tribe. And, the corporation receives a fat paycheck.
We can do better. We don’t need pink NFL uniforms to remind us that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. We don’t need a tube of lipstick to remind us that what we put in and on our bodies can impact our risk of cancer. We don’t need a pink ribbon t-shirt to remind us that 90% of breast cancer diagnosis have no genetic link. But we should be reminded of all the other cancers that impact women and men with frequency.
Let’s speak loud with our wallets and demand transparency from major corporations. Let’s ask how much money goes to cancer research, patient advocacy and direct patient support. Let’s find out if there is a cap on their donations. Let’s inquire about which non-profit is actually receiving the funds. If you can’t find the information, move on from the pinkwashing.
Ready to take your action to the next level? Here are some suggested alternative activities directly supporting cancer patients, written by a cancer patient herself.
Instead of buying pretty pink PJ’s, give the money directly to a non-profit organization focused on helping patients deal with a devastating cancer diagnosis. Look for organizations that are focused on patient support, not awareness. (Of course The Mayday Foundation would appreciate your donation).
Fundraise for Research
Metastatic breast cancer research receives less attention and funding than early-stage breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer, however, is the killer. When looking for research projects, find ones focused on a cure, like StandUpToCancer. Wings of Karen is funding promising breast cancer research in the Pacific Northwest and Texas.
Participate in a Clinical Study
Funding cancer research isn’t cheap. I know my care was impacted by scientists in labs who founded targeted therapies and by women before me who agreed to give them a try. Thank you! Researchers need women (and men) who have not been diagnosed with breast cancer for their studies. To learn more about finding a clinical trial, start with this NIH National Cancer Institute website.
Write to Congress
Funding cancer research isn’t cheap. I know my care was impacted by scientists in labs who found targeted therapies. Encourage your senator or congress member to support NIH funding for cancer research.
Set a Reminder
Did you get your mammogram a few months ago? Don’t wait for your doctor to remind you to go again or for a postcard to show up in your mailbox. Set yourself a reminder in your phone to call to make an appointment. In Olympia, call South Sound Radiology at 360-252-9301 or TRA Medical Imaging at 360-413-8383.
Donate Your Hair
Before you cut your locks, find an organization that accepts hair donations and review their guidelines. Your hair could be gracing a cancer patient’s head and that just feels good. To learn more about hair donations, visit cancer.net.
Spin the Conversation
You can also use this time to spread awareness about societal and environmental health issues important to you.
Turn to Your Closet
Is it pink dress-up day at work and you don’t want to make a scene by not participating? Look inside your closet or your kid’s dress-up bin and find something to wear you already own. Encourage your coworkers to do the same and then take it further by finding a local cancer center where you can drop off a healthy lunch for the staff.
Drive a Cancer Patient
Even the best care can’t help someone if they can’t get to a treatment facility. Sign up to be a driver through American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery. You pick the hours based on your schedule so it’s a flexible option if you have some free time.
Oh, and in case you forgot in this flurry of pink activity, this is your reminder to get your mammogram.
The Mayday Foundation is a 501(c)(3) approved non-profit organization that supports families with a parent diagnosed with cancer while caring for children at home. The Mayday Foundation can provide immediate, practical help with expenses like rent, utilities, groceries, transportation costs, and other household expenses. For tax purposes, our EIN is 82-3914026.