By Rev. Linda C. Loving, owner and executive director of Spirited Voices and author of “ A New Song to Sing: Breast Cancer as Journey of Spirit”
I think of life as a kaleidoscope – looking through it on an ordinary day, intrigued by the lovely patterns; then a call from the pathologist and the kaleidoscope takes a sharp, disruptive twist and all those promising patterns and colors seem shattered into pink fragments. The diagnosis of breast cancer startles each one who receives it, launching an unexpected, anxious journey.
Linking pink to breast cancer has helped to increase awareness and co-ordinate fund raising, research and resources for those committed to recovery and to a finding a cure. Important organizations like Pink Ribbon Society and Susan G Komen count on the instant recognition of using pink in their communications. However, I find it troubling that so many others ride the wave of that pink branding theme in order to market products that don’t move us any closer to the cure or to survivors’ well being.
I fear that the preponderance of pink might make us colorblind to the wide spectrum of complexities for those living with the disease. I don’t trust all this pink marketing; what if the real fallout is that we are normalizing – even trivializing – the disease? And how do men with the diagnosis feel about being folded into this pink frosting?
As a survivor I feel diminished and frightened by the possibility that the “new normal” has simply become “most women get breast cancer”; put on a pink t-shirt and pretend nothing happened. Does our culture deserve a “dressing down” for “dressing up” this difficult disease? Some hospitals reach out to the “one in eight” population with boutique treatment centers with heated hospital gowns, free massages, espresso machines in the changing rooms. While this can be a great comfort to a person in treatment (as it was to me!), I carry this nagging concern about cosmetic reframing of a deadly reality.
The kaleidoscope needs another sharp twist to allow us to see the complexities and acknowledge that breast cancer is not a norm to be packaged in a pretty, pink bow.
Pink Ribbon adds: