Pinkwashing and Breast Cancer Awareness Month

by | Cancer, Health & Wellness, Living with Cancer

As we wind down the end of October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’ve heard a number of complaints that go so far as to say we should just forget Breast Cancer Awareness Month altogether because of all the pinkwashing.

What is pinkwashing? When corporate jerks slap a pink ribbon on a product or service to increase the likelihood it will sell during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but little money, or even none, is actually forwarded on to the non-profits working to cure breast cancer or support those battling this disease.

Pinkwashing is infuriating. It turns my stomach that these corporate creeps are using my crisis to make a quick buck.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

In the seven months since my diagnosis, I’ve met so many women, both here in Seattle and out on the interwebs, who found their lump in October. They found it because of all the chatter, all the pink, all the hype caused them to pause and take a second look at their own breasts. Breast Cancer Awareness Month saves lives.

I recently attended a lecture on breast cancer where I learned, among other things, that the most exciting advances in all of cancer research are happening in the field of breast cancer. Life expectancy is improving every year. Komen for the Cure is second only to the US Government in funding this research. That means all those walks and all those fundraisers really are saving lives. So thank you to all of you who walk or donate. You are making a difference.

The Pink Daisy Project and the Young Survival Coalition also receive a large percentage of their funding during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Rather than focusing on research, these organizations help women with breast cancer endure until we find a cure.

Both of these organizations have had a huge impact on my life. Imagination does not do justice to the financial and emotional devastation of a cancer diagnosis. When I was buried under a never-ending pile of housework that added up during treatment, and digging through the couch for change to buy diapers, the Pink Daisy Project took care of the practical concerns that come with battling cancer. They hired a house keeping service to help dig me out of the mess, and sent me grocery gift cards to buy the necessities of life. Each woman is helped in a way that meets their specific needs. They helped one young woman who was losing her battle with cancer to get family portraits before she passed away. It breaks my heart to think how much those photos meant.

The Young Survival Coalition (YSC) is saving my sanity. There are so many issues that come up for young women battling cancer that might be different for the 60 year old woman with breast cancer: parenting, early menopause, more aggressive cancers, higher mortality, sexuality, reconstruction, dating, marriage, fertility, pregnancy, and adoption just to name a few. Many YSC members were told by medical professionals that they were too young to have breast cancer. You can get breast cancer as soon as you hit puberty, and it is the leading cause of cancer death in women between the ages of 15 and 54. In addition to functioning as a support group for young women battling breast cancer, YSC is working to educate the public and the medical community about the growing number of women diagnosed so young, to encourage earlier diagnosis, and to better represent young women with breast cancer in the sample groups for medical trials.

Ending Breast Cancer Awareness Month would seriously impact the ability of these organizations to fund their good work. Sure, there is a buttload of money going into the pockets of corporate jerks that are just using us. But don’t let the fact that these corporate buttheads exist undo a good thing. Educate yourself. Take a close look at what you are buying. Does it just have a pink ribbon attached? Is there more information available about where the funds go – and how much? Remember even a penny is “a portion of the proceeds.”

Pay attention to what you are buying and Think Before You Pink. But lets keep Breast Cancer Awareness Month around for a while. We still need to cure this disease.


Judy Schwartz Haley


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