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Does ‘Pinktober’ Empower Survivors?

Every year during the month of October, many people choose to ‘pink up’ their lives to show support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the World Health Organization, this month-long event is aimed to “increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection, and treatment… of this disease.” Currently in the U.S., breast cancer is the type of cancer that kills the most women with a body count at 232,000, followed by lung cancer at 102,000. Throughout the month fundraising events and rallies are organized and people become educated about this disease. It is a very supportive and happy month for everyone, except for the women who suffer from breast cancer and survivors. For them, this month is filled with anxiety, commercialization of their disease, and the dismemberment of their body to promote the salvation of breasts, not women.

The reality is that many women who suffer from breast cancer record feeling more anxiety, depression, frustration, and symptoms similar to that of PTSD during October. Most of these women are already aware of their current or past diagnosis, and the month usually brings back negative memories about treatment.

‘Pinktober’ has also become commercialized. People feel as if buying a pink product is all they can do to help cancer patients. Companies sell pink products such as pepper spray and pink buckets of chicken, making money off of the struggles of patients and survivors and the lives of those who lost the fight. A lot of this money ends up not reaching research facilities or charities.

Many of the advertisements for this month of support show famous slogans such as ‘Save Second Base’ or ‘Save the Ta-Tas,’ which sexualize such a deadly disease. These slogans are all about saving the breasts, but not the woman. In actuality, many women lose their breasts in the fight against breast cancer. In a society where there is such a strong belief that boobs are essential to be a woman, having to surgically remove part or all of one or both causes immense anxiety to the patient. Seeing these advertisements that only care about a part of their body and not their humanity definitely heightens these feelings of unease.

Similarly, most of these campaigns show breast cancer through a rose-tinted window. They show glowing, happy, usually healthy women with big breasts in pink attire. Breast cancer is not happiness and rainbows. Just like any other type of cancer, it kills, and it does so painfully. Aimee Fletcher, diagnosed with estrogen positive breast cancer in June 2014, posted a picture of her breasts to Twitter after she saw a challenge surface called #HoldACokeWithYourBoobsChallenge.  She says that “in a moment of grief and anger [she] decided to take the picture. [She] wanted to show people exactly what breast cancer looks like, and that it’s not glamorous or sexy or fun. People die.”

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