Monday, October 02, 2006
In the Pink or Seeing Red?
A few years back, before breast cancer,while shopping at Nordstrom I noticed a bag of potpourri that had pink flower bits and smelled so fresh and pleasant that I could just imagine how delightful it would be to fill my home with that fragrance. It was $10 for a decently sized bag. As much as I wanted it, potpourri wasn’t at the top of my list that day. In setting it back down, I noticed the familiar pink ribbon insignia on a little romance card attached to the bag. The card spoke of breast cancer awareness and that it was a limited time purchase only available in October. Suddenly, purchasing potpourri had become a noble deed. It had had gone beyond a desire for home fragrance to somehow saving lives. All for a limited time and a one-time only price of $10. How could I pass up a bargain like that?

In 2004, just months after my diagnosis, breast cancer awareness month took on a different meaning for me. It wasn’t about consumerism, rather, it was about awareness. I was amazed at the shocking statistics I would stumble across while doing research that uncovered the very low numbers of women getting annual mammograms compared to the number who should be getting them based on recommended guidelines. Still a noble cause, I embraced the month and was grateful for all the advances that have come as a result of raising awareness and funds.

In 2005, I experienced some internal conflict regarding the marketing machine known as breast cancer awareness month. A part of that still exists within me. I get embarrassed talking to my friends with ovarian and other cancers who struggle for funding and awareness. I feel like the favored daughter in the midst of a family of neglected children. The attention doesn’t feel good when the people I care about are not being treated the same. It feels as if I am receiving something at the cost of others. That doesn’t change the gratitude I have for the advances made possible by breast cancer awareness month that have positively affected my diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis, but there in lies the conflict. How many bracelets/tees/pink peppermint patties/bottles of nail polish/etc. does it take to find a cure? And how many can I wear without feeling like I'm losing myself in the cause and becoming a walking billboard for consummerism (well.. except for these… after all, it is a noble cause….). Sometimes it all feels like too much and that the consumerism is exploiting the breast cancer community (but I swear I wouldn’t feel exploited wearing these).

So here we are in 2006. It turns out that purchasing the potpourri years ago didn’t protect me from breast cancer. I am, however, somehow reaching a compromise on the potpourri of feelings regarding breast cancer awareness month. As we continue to make advances in cancer research, we are finding that various drugs work for more than one type of cancer and we are working on ways to move forward and apply various therapies to various forms and stages of cancer. In many ways, the advances in breast cancer research have a ripple effect through the cancer community as a whole. Sure, I would love it if Hershey would cut a check out of the kindness of their corporate heart, but if selling pink wrapped chocolate kisses enables them to not only make the donation, but have an impact on the cancer community as a whole, then it can’t be all bad (in moderation, of course, don't forget that pesky relation between diet and cancer risk). The bottom line is that all cancers benefit from the advances in breast cancer research and treatment, much of which is funded through the generosity of our corporate sponsors.

I won’t be the first to rush out and buy pink chocolates or car decals or even the most delightfully scented potpourri. I may, however, donate my old hats to a cancer care center, or make sure that my sisters have scheduled their annual mammograms, or volunteer at the cancer care center chemo infusion room. There are plenty of people going through treatment with no support system who would love the company. Or perhaps I’ll take a day out of my busy schedule and just stop, watch the sunrise, breathe in the lovely fall air, feel the wind on my face, and be thankful that I am here to experience yet one more breast cancer awareness month.

Even if you don’t shop pink, there are still plenty of ways to make a difference this month. Who knows? It may just save your life.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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