Pinktober Guest Post: Stephanie

Pink-to-ber A portmanteau coinage used by many people who live with breast cancer to refer to October, the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is heavily dominated by marketing in the color pink and cute tags like “Save the tatas”. (See Komen, etc.)

During the month of October 2013, I am running guest posts from people with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) or who are closely involved with someone who has MBC. This was the idea of the wonderful Jody Schoger, and I think some other breast cancer bloggers are participating, too.

Stephanie wrote today’s post. Steph is a 40-something single mom to an adorably spunky 4 year old named Katy. She was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer only 4 months after she adopted Katy from Ethiopia. She continues to work, play, love and live with grace and gusto. Steph blogs at Finding Family, where this post first appeared. Let’s welcome her with our famous Telling Knots comment love!

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And so it begins – pink is everywhere

It creeps up on me every year, the pinkwashing of every product from soup to nuts (literally and figuratively). And unfailingly, I am asked how I feel about it by friends and strangers alike. Well that’s a complicated question and one that’s been answered in every form by every type of person you can imagine. Survivors, caregivers, experts in fields related and unrelated to cancer and also the average joe. I can’t say what it means in a broad scope. I can’t even say what it means to me because it changes yearly, hell even daily. But as a single mom, coping with a diagnosis of metastatic stage IV breast cancer I’ve learned to go with the flow. If I feel like Pinktober sucks that day, I can say that. The next day I might be more optimistic.I’ve discovered there’s a cycle I’ve gone through since I first noticed there was such a thing as a pink ribbon. Similar to the stages of grief (which a diagnosis brings on anyway), the pink ribbon has had stages of feelings.

Blissful Pink
Still in the sunshine and butterflies pink, blissfully ignorant of it all, just noticing the pink, not sure what it means or why I should care. “That’s a pretty pink ribbon, and breast cancer seems bad so it won’t hurt if I donate to something helping it.” “Oh, breast cancer. My neighbor’s sister had that but she’s cured now.” 

Desperate Pink
Crap, crap, shit hitting the fan pink. Now I have it, what do I do with it. Get a kick-ass wig, a prayer shawl and a parking pass at the hospital.  “Well the pink ribbon helped others, it’s sure to help me too.”

Invisible Pink
Pink? What pink, I don’t have breast cancer anymore pink. Get a certificate for finishing treatment, get hair back and try to forget it ever happened. It’s the head in the sand approach that doesn’t really work when it’s everywhere. “Pink, sure it’s all good but that’s behind me now, I don’t need it anymore.”

Angry Pink
Despair and anger from the depths of my soul pink. Goddamn pink ribbon didn’t fucking do anything for me, why should anyone else get to feel good about it. And why should they anyway, it’s not like it’s cured or anything. “This wasn’t supposed to happen, the pink ribbon said I was cured.” “What good is early detection if it doesn’t do anything to the outcome?”

Amicable Pink
Just like an amicable divorce is still a divorce, guess what, cancer is still a terminal disease pink. Regardless of the statistics, someone will die from it. Maybe not you but someone. Does that mean we shouldn’t have raised awareness? Does that mean it should be all about me, the ‘loser’ in the fight? Guess what, I haven’t lost yet. I’m still a survivor, even if my pink is a bit tarnished and battered. Let’s just not forget that for all the early detection and ‘cured’ survivors, there’s someone out there living the battle every day. And living with gusto and grace. “Yes I have breast cancer but it doesn’t have me, and it shouldn’t have you either.”

On any given day, I might fluctuate between some or all of these stages. I wholeheartedly support my meta-sisters in the fight to remember the 30% of us who don’t get to forget it ever happened. I also support the early detected, treated and released survivors who are lucky enough to be in the majority. Sure wish I could be one of you and I hope you can stay there forever. But as long as I can’t, consider me thankful to be here to debate the issue.

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6 Responses

  1. Cristine says:

    Excellent post!! Well-balanced and nicely summarizing of what I think is many people’s experiences.

  2. Maxine D says:

    Yay Stephanie for your honesty!! Living with mets must be hell on earth some days, and sort of o.k. other days… and yes you have a real reason to ask/ shout out/ scream so as not be invisible. Although those with mets are ‘only’ 30% of those diagnosed , it is 100% of your life.

    Prayers and blessings

  3. Very well said, and fairly represented. I like the varying degrees of ribbon 🙂 ~Catherine

  4. Nice take on the varying degrees. I do hope the cancer presence in you is small enough and behaved enough to give you many years with your dear daughter. I know it will never be enough. Blessings and comfort to you.
    xo -shelli

  5. gregsmithmd says:

    Good stuff.
    Thank you for being honest

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