5 Things I Want the Pink Ribbon to Stand For
Breast cancer awareness is a cause I care about deeply.
But after all these years, I still don’t get the pink ribbon.
I don’t get how wearing a pink ribbon helps anyone personally. I don’t get how going pink for a month makes an actual impact on the lives of those diagnosed with breast cancer. Purchasing a pink dustpan and matching duster for the advancement of breast cancer research and cure just somehow feels…frivolous. To me at least.
As a breast cancer survivor I want to rewrite the message of the pink ribbon. Because if it’s awareness we’re really after, then let us be aware of what truly matters. Let’s be aware of what will make significant changes in the lives of women diagnosed with breast cancer and those who are at risk of getting it.
So, if you choose to wear a pink ribbon, let it stand for this.
1.Let it stand for “How can I help?”
Let’s be completely aware that when a person goes through the initial positive diagnosis of breast cancer, followed up by mastectomy and a series of chemotherapy treatment, added radiation plus medication – it is tough.
Very few will be able to run marathons or simply pick up where they left off soon after. Most will find even simple chores taxing beyond means.
Be aware that after such a course of radical and invasive treatment, a person’s strength is sapped. Not just for a week. Or a month. But for a year, or two, or sometimes even five.
I remember my early days after receiving the full treatment of six courses of chemotherapy. I had to pace myself every moment of the day. After hanging out a load of laundry, I had to lie down in bed to catch a breath for 30 minutes.
After making a simple meal in the kitchen, I had to lie down again. Life was lived out in small pockets of time. I couldn’t read out loud to my son or even sing to him because it took so much effort. Everything took an enormous amount of strain to accomplish. I remember walking to the little corner store just two minutes away from our home was a mighty fine accomplishment.
So, please, I ask of you, if you choose to wear a pink ribbon, then let it be a statement to this. “How can I help?”
Let the pink ribbon signify, “I’m coming over to fold that mountain of laundry for you!”
Let it be an unconditional offer to vacuum, to run errands and make dinner for someone you know who has breast cancer.
Don’t just bring flowers (as lovely and as thoughtful as they are). Bring yourself over for an afternoon of housecleaning. Babysit the kids. You can be sure that they are stretched thin when illness of this sort hits the family.
Be bold. Be practical. Be helpful. Don’t just be aware of breast cancer. Lend a helping hand.
2. Let it stand for Kindness
Kindness goes a long way in the healing and recovery of anyone stricken with cancer.
Most people tend to keep a safe distance from those who are ill and suffering. Oftentimes mistakenly believing that is the kindest thing to do. Because in this day of supreme privacy, we can be shy about intruding into someone’s life. We feel awkward about helping in case we come across interfering. Or worse, pitying.
“Breast cancer patients who have a strong social support system in the first year after diagnosis are less likely to die or have a recurrence of cancer, according to new research from the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and the Shanghai Institute of Preventive Medicine.” The study, led by first author Meira Epplein, assistant professor of medicine, was published in a recent edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Awareness of breast cancer means nothing if it is not accompanied by the deed of compassion. Be a friend. Be a listening ear. Be a healing balm. Be that shoulder to cry on. Be the hand that reaches out.
If you decide to attach the pink ribbon as a badge of support to breast cancer awareness, then let it be a pledge to go the extra mile. For if there is one thing that I hope this awareness campaign ultimately achieves is that we become kinder folks. Kinder to the suffering of another human being.
You might just save a life.
3. Let it stand for Understanding
Please understand that breast cancer changes a woman’s life forever.
So, please understand if she isn’t as active as before. Please understand if she sometimes cancels last minute. (the wig just won’t sit nicely that day/ she has about a hundred side-effects kicking in from the medication she’s on/ she’s just a tad overwhelmed by it all.)
Please understand if she disappears for a season. It’s her time. To rest. To heal. To build up her strength. To examine her life. She needs to make sense of it all. But on her terms. Not yours.
Please understand that her immune system is low, so do not visit if you are down with even a mild fever or cold.
Please understand that not all breast cancer patients appreciate gruesome stories of chemotherapy side-effects, death statistics caused by breast cancer. Neither after-dinner details of tumours and lumps found in one’s own body.
Please understand that if you feel the urge to educate or enlighten a cancer patient with a medical truth you have, do it with utmost courtesy and kindliness. Do it only if you ask permission. Do it if you are a qualified medical practitioner.
4. Let it stand for Good Health
With so much money and campaign awareness promoting the existence of breast cancer, I simply wish the pink ribbon would also stand for the awareness of how we can achieve good, wholesome health.
I wish greater awareness and priority can be given to inform women and men of lifestyle risks and changes that can be made so that breast cancer will no longer be among the top five leading causes of death for women worldwide.
If “health awareness” was promoted as seriously as cancer awareness currently is, we would see a huge drop in cancer rates and other illnesses. Unfortunately, most people don’t even know what “being in good health” even looks or feels like, because almost no one in the health field talks about it. Everyone only talks about illness.” – Anita Moorjani
For more information on health risks and lifestyle changes linked to breast cancer, please read my post Beyond The Pink Ribbon.
5. Ultimately, let it stand for Hope.
The first words I heard from a cancer survivor after I had been diagnosed were, “Do not be afraid. This is not a death sentence but a new beginning.” I clung on to those words with my life.
Hope floods life into a body. Hope makes even the most terrified soul, brave. Hope is medicine for the heart and mind and body.
By wearing the pink ribbon, you are saying there is Hope. This glorious, beautiful, bright, shiny hope that gives strength to every tired warrior battling breast cancer. Hope is the light at the end of a dark tunnel.
By all means, if you want to put your money towards the cause of breast cancer, buy all things pink and pin a pink ribbon on your lapel, do that. But please, please don’t stop there. Because, the pink ribbon has to mean more than that.
It’s not the acknowledging of the existence of breast cancer that counts. It’s the acknowledging of the existence of lives that matters even more.
To all the warriors out there. This one’s for you. To JL and EQ who were my rock and solace. You fed my soul with so much hope I had no room for fear. I thank you both with all my heart. To all of you near and far, who gave of your time, love and friendship. Thank you so much for reaching out to me.
And for those who left us too soon, too young, we remember you. In loving memory of Melanie Rose Killick.
So important to review these many and excellent ideas…I hope it’s OK that I reposted to Facebook. Thank you so much. It’s clear that your compassion and experience have much to offer to others!
I’m honoured by the repost Kitty! Thank you so much for helping the work of spreading awareness. You are a gift to me. Love, Sharon
Bravo Sharon! I love this post and your reasons to promote pink. May we bring compassion, understanding and healing to the survivors and better health education to all. blessings, Brad
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post Brad. It means a lot to me. Blessings dear friend! Sharon
I shared it on FB too. I wish we would put more heart in cancer campaigning and less merchandising! Or better yet, teach more preventive healing.
Yes, yes, and yes!! Thanks a million Brad!
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. What a great piece that gets right to the heart of the matter. I, personally am not a fan of the pink ribbon, or pink in general. There are so many other ways that we can help cancer victims and work towards cures than 5K runs and NFL players wearing pink shoes. But if that gets someones attention, and more importantly their help in areas that you mention, then so be it.
What we don’t need is people feeling they’ve done all they can because they sport a ribbon on their lapel.
Thank you for writing such a great piece that gets right to the heart of the matter. As a survivor, I didn’t need someone feeling sorry for me, I needed someone to drive me to my treatment, or clean the house, or make a lunch. Thank you for putting into words some of the frustrations I felt then, and feel today about the misdirected pink focus.
My thoughts EXACTLY Barney!!
A cause cannot be reduced to a ribbon. As well-intentioned as it might have been in garnering greater awareness for breast cancer, I can’t bear the thought that we have become smug and self-satisfied in our association with pink ribbons rather than being involved directly with real lives, with real needs, fighting real battles.
I wrote this in part because from what I see during the month of October, just how trendy it is to dress in pink as a show of solidarity and awareness. And I’m not a fan of trends.
Thank you for your heartfelt and sincere comment. I appreciate it greatly. I wish you blessings from my heart, wonderful health and so much happiness to dazzle your soul! Greetings to Mrs B. To warriors. Sharon
Thank you, Sharon, for sharing your well-earned wisdom on this subject. People need to be weaned off of the sentiment that money solves all problems.
Or that neatly packaged solutions in pink solve all problems. Thank you dear Anne for your constant support, your care and friendship over the years. I know you are a champion for this cause. Blessings and a big tight hug! Sharon
I’m not a huge fan of the whole pink ribbon thing, but always feel a bit bad about that like somehow I am wishing people poor health. Thanks for your thoughtful post and good health to you!
I love your honest thoughts Amy! One in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes. If you reach out and make a phone call to say you care, if you visit and give them a hug, if you bring them dinner, if you write a card for them to redeem for one clean-up day, if you hold their hand, dry their tears… any one of the above is worth more than any pink ribbon strung on your shirt. I promise you that! Thank you for your warm wishes! Hugs! Sharon
Thanks for this Sharon, All the best to you 🙂
Thank you for your words.
Thank you Lily! So good to hear from you. Sharon x
This is such a wonderful post. I have had so many friends who have had cancer of one sort or another and you have just done what you do so well – eloquently spoken for those who may not be able to say it for themselves. I love you and your words. xxoo
Hope you don’t mind that I re-blogged this on my site.
Just sitting here feeling your kind love my friend…
Reblogged this on A Letter to my Children and commented:
I always love the words of my blogging friend. This is a special message.
These thoughts from your heart touched mine, as I know thy will for all who read them, Sharon. May your words continue to inspire and improve lives, my friend.
Dear Russ, you bring a smile to me everytime you drop by. Thank you for your kind support and encouragement over the years. Most of all, thank you for the work you do with your writing as well dear friend. Sharon
We all, as your readers, have so very much, I believe reading from your words, to thank JL and EQ for. They gave you everything and ALL you needed at your lowest ebb! Your strength gathered from their support has manifested itself and grown to give you time to write this powerful post. The greatest thing has to be gained from experience and to pass it on! To have love and support when you most need it – and beyond – is so amazing and helped you untold amounts on your road of recovery!! May you continue for many many, many happy and healthy and fun years on your new journey! Reading your wonderful, heartfelt posts, I feel so extremely privileged to have fallen across your path in such a small way ❤ xxx
Your beautiful message is infused with so much light, love and support, I am wrapped tight in your warm wishes! Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for writing to me. I am so glad you picked up on the great significance of JL and EQ – women I had never met at that time and survivors who showed me what grace, kindness and strength truly mean. I feel your heart in such a big way dear Caren! Big hug, Sharon
gratitude for your courageous
for the benefit of others
You bring peace even with these words David. Thank you. Sharon
Thank you for making me think today. I hope that I may become a kinder more understanding person with every passing day.
You are a very dear heart Elizabeth. Your kindness can be felt all the way here. Hugs and thank you! Sharon
Thank you for bringing real meaning here… And a depth for us to reach for in our understanding of ourselves, others, disease, life and death …. And how we show up every day. Are we truly living what we believe in?
Now, that’s a question that we need to keep asking ourselves each day Val! I’m learning more and more that it’s not our words that count for something. But our deeds. No matter how small speak louder than words. Louder than all the ribbons in the world. Thank you for writing! Sharon x
It’s great to read your blog posts again – such a rich critique but yet so full of love!
Hello Sarah, so good to hear from you. Thank you for reading and sharing the love! Sharon x
Very thoughtful and thought provoking. Thanks. –Curt
Hello Curt! Thank you most kindly and so good to hear from you again. Sharon
I found this so useful and so life affirming. Thank you so much. 🙂
Thank you my dear one! Hugs, Sharon
Sharon, I couldn’t agree more. So much gets lost in a never-ending parade of commercialism nowadays that the most important meaning of an idea gets lost. I am totally with you. Perfectly said.
Dearest Jeanne, thinking of you and cherishing your messages to me. Thank you for your friendship and support over the years! I love the sound of that. Years! 😀 Hugs, Sharon
I like the sound of that, too. Cheers to us!
A friend who has just had a double mastectomy is coming home from the hospital today Sharon. A wise and timely post. Thank you.
I know she would be in good hands Chris. Send her my love and strength and a big hug too. Thank you. Sharon
Hi Sharon. I ran across this article today regarding the pink campaign, and one of the key questions is the exact one you raise: What does it bring us, versus helping us to help others.
“Does that mean we should abandon such efforts? Absolutely not. But in the fight against a particular disease, we need to understand that awareness efforts are only initial steps down a very long road. The time has come for us to think about other steps we need to take.
We can begin by putting at least as much time and effort into understanding the social, health, economic, environmental and policy-related challenges faced by individuals at risk for and suffering from a particular disease. Then we should help them fight these battles.”
I like that last sentence. That awareness should now go hand in hand with practical help to those with breast cancer. Excellent article Barney! Thank you so much for sharing it here. Thank you so much for your support for the cause of life. Hugs, Sharon
Beautiful and wise, my friend. As always thanks for sharing.
Becky!!!!! I have missed you. So, so good to hear from you. Hugs my dear one. Sharon
Your message is so wonderful and important, Sharon. The ribbon has to mean something, tangible support both practical and emotional. I hope I’ve lived up to a small part of your message with friends who have been close to me going through this process from diagnosis and treatment to survival. I love Anita Moorjani’s book, it is so full of wisdom…and love. So much to learn. Thank you Sharon. Many hugs
So right. Awareness alone is not enough. It has to go hand in hand with practical support. I know you must be a source of blessings to your friends Tiny. As you have been to me. Hugs.
Reading your post, again and again, moved me more than I can say. Thank you, dear Sharon, from the bottom of my heart for having expressed your thoughts on this subject : Pink ribbon and breast cancer. I have been struggling with breast cancer since February and I share every single word you wrote. About awareness that truly matters, indeed (the pink ribbon). But also about practical help, kindness and compassion and seeing this unexpected and shocking diagnosis as a new beginning.” What will I do with this news and its consequences ?”
Hope is a feeling that never leaves me, I try to be present and positive. And also I try – no matter the difficult moments that happen – to show my gratitude, to say thank you. To my family, close and extended, to my friends – some I discovered since I am ill, how good is that ? – to my doctors and all the medical staff who go out of their way to make me feel less bad or rather better.
If I learnt something over the past months, it is definitely that Love, real Friendship, great Care, Thoughtfulness are priceless. And so needed in these times of anxiety. Thank you Sharon, Gratefulness to you also. Love and Hugs. Isabelle
Dearest Isabelle, you are in my thoughts and close to my heart beautiful soul! Your abundant gratitude spills over and your radiance glows from within. I can already tell you are a bright ray of blessing to everyone in your life! Gratitude is magic. It gives you joy. And joy gives you wings. May each day be better than yesterday. May each day be filled with magic. I’m sending you sunshine of health and happiness! With great big bunches of love, Sharon. If you ever need to write to me, here’s my email: email@example.com
You’re so right, it has to mean more than just a symbol of actionless support. I never want to signify that I care with a simple symbol. It seems too much like pretending. There is so much about cancer that is troublesome, and the way we often talk about it or put it at arm’s length while acknowledging it needs to change. I think we’re still quite immature about it, as we are about death itself. But your last point, Hope, is the one I most like. So that’s what I’ll think about when I see all the pinkness this month. Not every form of cancer encompasses much hope, so that was a positive and uplifting thing for you to end with. Hope your autumn is going well!
Great, thoughtful, post! Shared on twitter under #wwwblogs.
Love from the Hedgehog x
That’s so good of you! Thank you dear Hedgehog! xx
Darling Sharon, I admire you! Every time you write, you bring newvaluable perspectives. ❤
Sharon, your words really hit to the heart of everyone. For all these years I have seen people talk about Pink Ribbon but they don’t really work further than that. I’m very grateful to have known you here and the information and experience that you share matter a lot. I do believe and always believe that action speaks louder than words.
Thank you for this post, Sharon. It’s true for all cancer patients!
Sharon such a gift you have in writing, you are able to put your special magic so that we all take away some valuable lessons and a new perspective on what it means to have a threatening illness. Thank you for your honesty you are an amazing woman.
Life has experienced setbacks test, so a more powerful force, I feel this from you.
Wonderful blog…great photos but more importantly beautiful words! Thank you for visiting!
Thank you for taking the time to educate and inspire with this beautifully written and deeply heart felt post. It truly brings heightened awareness, and an informed perspective to what really matters, by powerfully encouraging action beyond simply wearing a pink ribbon. No doubt this will help change the way people think on the subject, and change the way they ‘support’ those in need.
This is such a thoughtful and insightful post–I am struck by how the suggestions are so simple, but not easy. I am sending this to my sister, who is a breast cancer survivor. I know she and others will find hope and courage by your words Sharon. Thank you!
Thank you Meg. And give your sister an extra big hug from me. X
Your heart always birth a smile on my face with your selfless thoughts! God bless you and your family!
Dear Wendell, your kindness reaches me every time you write – even after all these years! Blessings dear friend. Sharon
I completely agree with this post! It is ok to have an symbol for a disease (like a daffodil for cancer), but we need to keep in mind what we are really fighting for, and the meaning behind these symbols that is all too often forgotten. Well done Sharon for putting this in the spotlight to remind us all what we really need to be focusing on.
Thank you Laura and so good to meet you! Sharon
You’re welcome Sharon, I hope to explore more of blog soon. Have a great weekend!
Dear Sharon, I read your post and it’s the voice of the hundreds of patients I have met through the years. Such brave and inspiring women that fight and live with a disease that is so merciless. Some days my heart can’t go on but I stop to remember that it has nothing to do with me. It’s their journey that I need to be sensitive to. So I always stop to listen. I try not to rush their words out even if I have heard their story before. In turn i am so humbled by their sharing, their strength and their tenacity. Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts on how the pink ribbon can represent something more than just statistics.
Hugs Singledust. I feel your heart and it is full of compassion. Sharon x
Positivity seems to be an important factor, but I have no idea how I will respond if ever I’m given the news. With horror, dread and disbelief, I’m sure. So glad that you’ve come out of the other end of this almighty struggle, and that you are here, beaming out positive thoughts.