Right when October rolls around, it's almost impossible to avoid the pink ribbons and apparel that signal National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But while those items may have good intentions behind them, pink ribbons don't tell the whole story about breast cancer.
Tracie Marie, a breast cancer survivor, spoke out on the truth about "pinkwashing" campaigns in an honest Facebook post in which she shared a photo of her double mastectomy scars.
"While the majority of people believe that Breast Cancer is a pink ribbon, a pink Pom Pom, a pen with a pink ribbon, a tote with a pink ribbon, an encap at your local Walmart engaging you to be a 'part of the cure,'" she wrote. "First, a hard reality, you are not being part of the cure, you’re just throwing your money away to propaganda, uniforms for NFL cheerleaders, and kiosk after kiosk with items from handbags to ziplock bags."
Marie's points echo that of what critics of pink ribbons have been saying for years, which is that the money raised for "awareness" actually does very little for breast cancer patients in the long run. While we've raised a lot of money for breast cancer awareness and research, many terminal breast cancer patients feel they have been forgotten.
"A pink ribbon isn’t the men and women fighting for their lives with metastatic breast cancer," she wrote.
Marie also dismantled other myths about breast cancer, writing that it's often sexualized, and shutting down the idea that survivors get "free boob jobs."
"Showing models with fake scars, beautiful bodies and breasts with the strap so perfectly dangling from her shoulder," she wrote. "That’s not what Breast cancer is. It’s CTs, surgeries, amputations, biopsies, MRIs, X-rays, radiation, chemo, IVs, blood tests, fear, worry, hate, anger, confusion, sadness, loneliness, medications, check ups, anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain."
Marie is now out of treatment, and doctors declared that she has "NED," or "no evidence of disease," but she still has to attend doctors' appointments, counseling, physical therapy, and pain management.
Since she posted her photo on Facebook two weeks ago, it has gone viral with over 185,000 shares at the time of writing.
"I always fought against pink since diagnosis," she tells Refinery29. "It’s like you don’t see it but then after diagnosis it’s like a sea of pink flooding everywhere I go and a sea of women denied help from the very people who make so much but constantly are 'out of funds' to help."
She says that she hopes to not only support fellow survivors by listening, but also to use her voice to speak up about what can actually help them.
"All I can hope for is to do something good with my life and having had cancer," she says. "Use my voice!"
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For more stories about detecting, treating, or living with breast cancer, click here.
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