I follow a number of blogs. Some for fun. Some because they are written by a friend. And some because the author writes about issues related to breast cancer. Some who blog about breast cancer have a strong opposition to the pink October, buy pink ribbon products, breast cancer awareness propaganda. While I follow a blog entitled “But Doctor, I Hate Pink,” I actually don’t hate the color. In fact, pink has been my favorite color for as long as I can remember.
However, I am not here to write about the preference of one color over another. Rather, I’d like my friends who object to the pink ribbon campaign to consider another perspective. I agree that the “awareness” campaign can go too far and therefore lose meaning. We’ve all read in the news how buying a product with a pink ribbon does not mean that the company that put the ribbon on their product is going to donate millions of dollars to breast cancer research. Also, I think the NFL was a bit over the top this past October. First, there was too much pink. Second, it was the wrong shade. I appreciate the sentiment behind the “support,” but I’d rather that the owners of each NFL team donate 100% of their October profits to a hospital, clinic or research facility in their home state. It is the financial support that makes the difference.
Now getting back to my “please don’t hate the pink ribbon campaign” message, which is the real reason I am writing this. I’d like to say, please do not dismiss the work of foundations and nationally recognized research hospitals. As you know, I support the Avon Foundation. I walk in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. (This year’s destination city is San Francisco). When I first decided to walk for fundraising and awareness my co-captain and I did our research. I had already researched the different foundations that support breast cancer research, support services and education. In fact, I had researched them several years before I was diagnosed as a result of being asked to donate to several fundraising efforts of friends. I wanted to know where my money was going. In researching the different foundations and trusts I realized that if I were to ever become involved with a foundation, it would be Avon. So when my friend and fellow walker suggested a walk in memory of our school-mate I already knew how each foundation spent its money.
Yes, a portion of the funds raised via the Avon Walk go back to the foundation itself to pay the expenses associated with the walk. While the Avon Foundation receives much of its support for the Walk through corporate sponsors who donate materials, the generosity of the host cities and numerous volunteers there are still costs associated with the Walk. (I am always impressed by the delicious and healthy food that is prepared and donated by local restaurants). However, what is most important is that 80% of the funds raised are given out as grants to local hospitals, clinics and organizations that do research and provide services to patients and their families. The other 20% goes toward underserved areas across the country. This past year, one of the grants was given to the University of Maryland, Baltimore where they are researching treatments for triple negative breast cancer. As a survivor of triple negative breast cancer I was thrilled to learn that some of the money I helped raise will go to this effort.
The Avon Foundation is not the only nationally recognized organization to think about. Dana Farber and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, along with the Mayo Clinic and others have worked hard and contributed significantly to both research and treatments for cancer. Without them we would not have the current treatments available that are saving lives every day.
I also advocate for giving locally. There is an annual fundraising walk for the North Shore Cancer Center, which is where I received my radiation treatments. I know many women who have received all of their treatments through the Cancer Center. It is important to me to support such a facility so that others may receive care and treatment that is local and convenient.
In some ways, the pink ribbon campaign has lost its meaning. However, it is a reminder of how far we’ve come in terms of treatment and education. It is also a reminder to think about charitable giving. If you don’t have an annual plan, think about giving. And research where you would like your dollars spent. But please, don’t hate these reminders that there are women and men who are struggling with a horrible disease. It is through the generous giving of national foundations that we have new and better treatments every year.