October is always my “crazy, busy” month. Or, at least, it has been ever since I had breast cancer. The brand marketer in me knows that since October is the month designated for breast cancer awareness there will be a flurry of activity as everyone jumps on the band-wagon. And, sure enough, when October hits my book sales climb, speaking engagements occur, and social media is more active.
This year is starting out no differently, as I look at my schedule of speaking events and book signings in October. Each year, as pink October starts, I think of the many women who are uncomfortable with Breast Cancer Awareness month. There are many good reasons for that, as for many women, celebrating pink seems to trivialize breast cancer. I understand that. May I say, my breast cancer was far from trivial!
The marketer in me understands that if Pink October stimulates awareness of breast cancer, a few things might happen; funding might get to the breast cancer researchers, loved ones may talk to each other about breast cancer, and patients might actually think of and get their mammograms.
So, what should we do? Pink October is not a cure. It is not simply funky tutus and an opportunity to party. It is an opportunity to bring breast cancer insights into the light. During an event last year, a fellow speaker shared that over 38% of women do NOT get a mammogram. Wow! During another speech, I learned of research studies identifying how to prevent metastases of HER2 breast cancer. Those speeches occurred precisely because it was Breast Cancer Awareness month.
It occurred to me, that in fact, that is what Pink October is all about. It is not about being trivial, it is about being accessible. It is a symbolic representation of something that women must pay attention to: breast cancer, For those who have not had it, breast cancer is a big scary concept. Pink is not. Perhaps because of the wearing of pink this year, next year the number of those women not getting a mammogram will drop. Perhaps because of a pink event, a little more funding will make it’s way into the researcher’s budget. Perhaps when a newly diagnosed person sees pink, they will have a little bit of hope in simply knowing how many others are on this breast cancer journey.
I don’t know that there is any way to measure the impact of Pink October. I can only hope that a little pink is a unifying rallying cry against cancer. That in the end, the gentleness of pink brings people to the conversation and then loudly shouts to the world that breast cancer is anything but trivial.