K. E. Garland rethinks pink ribbons and discusses raising awareness for all cancers in all seasons.
Breast Cancer Awareness is imperative. I get that. A friend of mine was recently diagnosed. My aunt and grandmother have five survivor friends between them. And now that I’m over 40, my gynecologist sends me to the imaging center to ensure my own dense breasts are cancer-free.
Breast cancer has affected many women. And I suppose that’s the reason Americans are inundated with awareness every October. My eggs are stamped with pink ribbons. A pink sticker ribbon is attached to my package of mushrooms. Light and dark pink balloons hang from the car dealer’s ceiling. Avon’s popular Skin So Soft supports Breast Cancer Awareness. So do Adidas, the NFL, and P. F. Chang’s.
I get it. But I don’t get it.
According to the CDC, “lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the United States.” Furthermore, black people are more likely to die from lung cancer than any other cancer and any other race.
I believe it. A friend’s mom succumbed to lung cancer a few years ago. Two year ago, my dad lost his own battle. Yet, there will not be a deluge of white ribbons or November lung cancer walks. I can almost bet that the car dealer will not replace pink ribbons with white ones. Perhaps we’ll be too busy gearing up for turkey and gratitude to pause for 30 straight days of consciousness. Or maybe it’s the stigma of the disease that dictates a social movement. After all, smoking is a choice.
But what about prostate cancer? It’s not a choice. The American Cancer Society reports that it’s the most common form of cancer among men. The Society’s fact sheet notes “of those diagnosed, 37% are African-American men.” September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month. Yet, light blue ribbons were not stamped on my food in order to create mindfulness about this leading cancer killer among black men.
I wonder why. I wonder why it’s not common knowledge. What is the implicit message when society is consumed with advancing one cancer awareness and not others?
The good news is we don’t have to wait for America to acknowledge the cancer that may affect us and our loved ones more. If you know someone who has suffered through, survived or died of any cancer, then begin raising consciousness in your own way. Locate the cancer awareness month here. Donate to the American Cancer Society. Participate in a walk or run, either alone or with a group. Change your social media’s profile pic to represent a specific cancer’s ribbon. Do something to raise awareness before and after October. I know when November 1st hits, I will.
This essay was previously published in The South Florida Times.