Forget Pink Ribbons—This is How You Mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Pinktober is here again.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or Pinktober, is here again. Amid the skeletons and jack-o-lanterns, pink ribbons and cutesy slogans are here to remind you that a disease that kills roughly 40,000 per year exists. You know, in case you were unaware.

While it’s cool people and companies are also taking this time to raise funds alongside that oh-so-important awareness, I think there’s more we can do.

For instance, we’re all aware this disease exists. But did you know it presents in a number of ways that don’t include lumps? Ways that sometimes don’t show up on mammograms? Scary but true. I recently wrote a piece for Healthline on this very thing. Did you know skin dimpling can indicate breast cancer? You can learn more about the signs in my piece, as well as at Know Your Lemons (a fab resource).

Here’s another thing you probably didn’t know: Metastatic breast cancer is the only kind of breast cancer that kills. Meaning, once cancer metasticizes (spreads), it can and often will kill. Here’s the even scarier part: Even early stage cancers that are successfully treated can metasticize. There goes the assurance that catching it early automatically means you’ll be fine.

This is the fear every breast cancer patient and survivor lives with. Will it come back? Will it spread? Will I die?

Which brings me to my second point in how to truly make the most of Pinktober: Donate to Metavivor. Stage IV or metastatic breast cancer is the least-funded type of breast cancer research, even though it’s the only type that kills. Metavivor is the only organization dedicated to metastatic breast cancer research, as well as supporting MBC patients. And all donated funds go to that mission—you never have to worry about shady dealings filtering your support. I donate to Metavivor every year, and I encourage you to, as well. Every penny counts.

Last but not least, be gentle with the breast cancer survivors in your life this month. Pinktober is incredibly triggering for us, and throwing a pandemic on top of it doesn’t help. Just remember the fear of illness you’ve lived with these past few months has been our reality for a while, and while a vaccine will one day stop COVID, there’s no silver bullet to kill our boogeyman.

The Ones Who Came Before Me


I’m a member of a Facebook group for women with breast cancer, and yesterday one of the women posted a gratitude thread. There were all the usual sentiments–gratitude for family, friends, the group itself, etc.–but one really struck me. I’m paraphrasing, but she said she was thankful for all the women who came before us; the ones who did the clinical trials that led to the drugs that fight our cancer, the ones who allowed doctors and researchers to discover new breakthroughs, the ones who survived and give us hope, and the ones who didn’t, reminding everyone how serious this disease is.

Her comment reminded me of the above photo, which I took last week while working the High Point Market (a big bi-annual furniture trade show here in NC, for the uninitiated).

I was taking a quick lunch break when I noticed the huge pink firetruck parked near a group of food trucks. After getting my food, I found a seat next to the truck to enjoy my meal. Sitting alone on that bench, I started reading all the messages written on the truck. There were so many–it was almost completely covered!

The more I read, the more emotional I got. There were so many in memory of someone lost–mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, wives, friends. We all know that cancer can kill us. This is an undeniable fact. But, in the interest of self-preservation and not going completely mad with fear and anxiety, I try to push that fact out of my mind as much as possible.

Seeing those names reminded me the disease I’m fighting takes women just like me all the time. In the middle of Pinktober, it was both a scary and good reminder–breast cancer is not all pink ribbons and festive charity walks. It’s a real, deadly disease. It ravages bodies. It decimates finances. It breaks up families. The lucky ones–the survivors–bear the scars and carry an unseen fear (will it return?) with them forever. The others lose it all.

But those weren’t the only names I read. I also saw the survivors. The ones who wrote how many years they’d been cancer-free. The ones who left uplifting messages reminding us to keep up the fight. The survivors keep me going.

So like my fellow group member, I also would like to thank the ones who came before us. No matter the outcome, their experiences made a difference and I am thankful for those courageous women.