by Terri Coutee
Do We Need to Clean up the Pink Washing of October? There are many people who believe, and rightfully so, that we need to clean up our pink act this month. The colors of fall bring warm hues of golden leaves, orange pumpkins and bronzed evenings that turn cooler as the season changes. Pink has also edged into those October colors as well to symbolize Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Pink has never been my favorite color even before I had not one, but two breast cancer diagnoses. I will admit, when I see NFL players wearing pink socks, when I pass by a bag of pink M & M’s in the grocery, or a number of other gimmicks to bring awareness to breast cancer, I cringe a little. Is the money spent on such merchandise and movements really going to breast cancer research and helping to find a cure? Is the money spent going directly to support those patients going through treatment with services of support? If it is not, then a resounding, “YES!” Quit pink washing the month of October.
Let’s look at it from another angle though. Colors identify us and give meaning to events, dates, celebrations and groups. Canadians hoist the red and white colors of their flag with pride and honor. We proudly dawn our red, white and blue on national holidays in the U.S. Other countries own their colors of pride. The holidays we celebrate are symbolized by their colors and bring anticipation and fond memories shared during those times of the year. Pink is the color of breast cancer awareness. It is for that reason that I don’t begrudge using the color during the month of October, as long as it is done in the right way.
I am identified by that color with all of those with whom I work and communicate about breast cancer awareness. Pink brings special meaning to me during this month and for the hundreds of women in my Facebook group. We discuss and share information about the trials and tribulations of coming to a decision to have breast reconstruction after mastectomy. There is no pink washing in that group but only an identifier of our support and love for each other. It is the time, tears, fears and joy we share daily about how to bravely face the diagnosis and determine if reconstruction is the right choice for moving beyond the diagnosis. I have seldom witnessed greater strength and positivity than in that group of survivors.
I want to share something that happened to me this month during a fund raiser I attended to support the Foundation I started to educate about options in breast reconstruction. I greeted a woman who came in the venue. There was a lot of pink as you walked in but it was at a store where you could shop for other items as well. One of the store owners politely told her about my Foundation. The woman didn’t know I was the Founder and Director of the foundation that the store was supporting. The woman got a bit of a scowl on her face and said, “I don’t buy into all this pink.”
I walked over to the woman and shook her hand and introduced myself as the Foundation’s Director. Then I looked at her and said, “I get it. You don’t have to like anything about the color pink. Many folks don’t.”
She looked at me apologetically and said, “Sorry, but I just don’t get all the pink.” Then she told me she had pancreatic cancer. She was frustrated that so much attention was focused on breast cancer when she was living with a life threatening cancer. I looked at her and replied, “You have every right to feel how you are feeling, pink or no pink. We’re all in this together.”
We chatted for quite a bit after that. She took my card and as she left the venue that day we both smiled at each other because we knew. Pink or no pink, in October, cancer survivors are in an unintended club together no matter what the diagnosis is. I won’t scoff at the color pink in October but I truly do understand why others do.
Terri Coutee is the Founder and Director of the non profit organization http://www.diepcfoundation.org/. The Foundation provides education and resources to empower patients with information and options in breast reconstruction after mastectomy. She writes a blog at http://diepcjourney.com/ about the personal account of her own breast reconstruction. While working on her M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership, Terri was diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer. She turned her years of being an educator into a purposeful life becoming an educator for breast reconstruction options after mastectomy. She has taken a keen interest in the passage of the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act. She actively participates in social media administering an on-line support group, sharing evidence based research and engaging in community activities that support breast cancer and breast reconstruction. You can find her on Twitter @6state or on Pinterest and Instagram @tgcoutee.