I remember the first October I survived after initially being diagnosed with breast cancer. It was overwhelming. I was just getting my hair back and I felt like sobbing with grief every time I went into a store and saw another pink display. I was grieving over who I had been, who I was then, and what the future would look like. Now, 8 years later the “pink attack” has intensified to such a degree that I’m tempted to stay in my house for the month. My perspective has changed too. I now have metastatic breast cancer, an incurable and fatal disease. My concept of what breast cancer awareness should be has changed radically. I still remember leaving the doctor’s office after my 5 year check up. I was smiling ear to ear and practically floated into the elevator. There was a woman in the elevator who commented on my happiness and I shared with her that I was done! I was a survivor!
I remember her looking at me and softly saying “Oh, Honey.” I was so annoyed at her. How dare she try to ruin my moment. Now I look back and know she was just wishing she could share with me the truth. There is no magical five-year “safety zone” when you’ve had breast cancer. 25-30% of breast cancer patients will go on to develop metastatic breast cancer and it can be 1, 5, 10 ,15, or even 20 years after your diagnosis. Basically, if you’ve had breast cancer you won’t know if it’s going to kill you until you die from something else. Less than 5% of funds raised for breast cancer “awareness” go towards research of metastatic disease. We need to change our definition of awareness and breast cancer education. Many people still don’t know how to recognize inflammatory breast cancer. People certainly don’t understand metastatic breast cancer. I had no family history of breast cancer. I was diagnosed at stage 1a, I exercised, ate well, did holistic nutrition, yoga, meditation, and followed my doctor’s recommendations to the letter and it still came back. Scary stuff I agree, but we can make it less scary by funding research towards metastatic disease. This creates a safety net for everyone. It provides hope for establishing treatment protocols that can extend life for meaningful lengths of time. Hopefully, we begin to understand how cancer metastasizes so we can prevent it from happening in the first place.
So many people are touched by breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. I understand how as compassionate beings we want to help. We naturally want a standard or rallying cry to bring us together and move us forward. Pink has become that for breast cancer. But please, “Think before you pink” and choose the cause you support carefully. Make your dollars count towards the future and the possibility of extending someone’s life and please choose to fund research of metastatic disease. Here’s our Team Judy video to show you what we do to fund research. Another fantastic organization to fund is METAvivor.