This Is the Problem With Breast Cancer Awareness That Nobody Talks About

Breast cancer survivor
Acasia Vicknair

As told to Lauren Levy by Acasia Vicknair. 

To all of my friends and family --

I've been attempting to run from cancer for the last decade. My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer in 2008 and passed away in 2009. It was incredibly devastating and difficult and just as we felt we were coming out of our grief, my older sister -- and only sibling -- was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in 2011. She passed in 2012, almost a year from her diagnosis. We had no family history of cancer and this just rocked us to our familial core. I was then diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, but grade 3 (early stage but VERY aggressive) in March of 2017. 

It's now another October. That means it is officially “Pinktober," which is a month of hell for most of us who have/had breast cancer.

Let me repeat.

Hell.

  • This isn’t “our” month or an exciting time to be accosted with the color pink. 

    Acasia Vicknair

    We’ve all been talking about how to deal with it for months now. I’m so entirely disgusted by awareness campaigns and slogans that consume our lives during this time and am so horrified by just how traumatizing and dismissive they are.

    Sure, it’s easy to sign up for a walk, to sponsor someone, to buy a “fun” T-shirt or to sport a pink ribbon ... but, do you want to know what most women with breast cancer despise? All. Of. That. Shit.

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  • Just so we’re clear. A few “awareness” slogans:

    “I stare because I care”
    “Save second base”
    “I’m here for the boobies”
    “Save the boobies”
    “Think pink”
    “Pink power”
    “These boobs were made for walking’”
    “I am a breast man”
    “Save the hooters”
    “Don’t let breast cancer steal second base”
    “Boobies make me smile”
    “Breast in show”
    “Big or small, let’s save them all”
    “Put your breast foot forward”

    And

    “If only women paid as much attention to their breasts as men do…”

    So. Did you laugh a little? Maybe a little smile? Did you chuckle or think any of this is cute? I know, you’re thinking about boobs right now, so you might be a little distracted. Let me refocus your attention.

  • Do you know what *wasn’t* mentioned in those slogans, even once? THE WOMAN. A WOMAN. ANY WOMAN.

    Acasia Vicknair

    Did you even realize that last awareness campaign and slogan BLAMES WOMEN FOR THIS DISEASE?

    Do you know what is mentioned when that woman/ a woman/ any woman dies from metastatic breast cancer? That she “lost” a battle. No, she didn’t. She did not. She lost her life, her family, the opportunity to see her children grow up or her partner grow old. Or just the opportunity to put her feet on this earth, her toes in the sand, reach her hand out for a hello.

  • She lost everything, but not a f*cking battle. She was never weak.

    This is NOT in our hands. We don’t lose because we aren’t strong enough, we die because there is no cure. Most women would dissect their own body and amputate their own limbs to stay here, on this Earth, with their loved ones for one more day. I certainly would AND I certainly will.

  • PLEASE don’t dismiss, demean, disrespect, or sexualize breast cancer this year. 

    Acasia Vicknair

    Please don’t sit in your ignorance for one more day -- breast cancer is not pink. Meaningless “awareness” is NOT the answer and a heart emoji on social media does NOTHING but harm. Stop perpetuating the cycle. Please.

    Anyone can get breast cancer, not just women, and if you care, put your money toward the only organization which will utilize it for a cure. If you want all of us with early AND late stage beast cancer diagnoses to have the opportunity to survive, we NEED a cure.

    If you plan to donate this year, or even if you didn’t plan to but are in a position to, please consider Metavivor, which is one of the only organizations that give us all hope for a full life -- for us and our children, after all, they are also at risk.

    I’m also sharing this old photo because, even a year and a half after my bilateral mastectomies and reconstruction, the only pink things about my breast cancer are these lifelong scars.

  • I didn’t “hate" Pinktober prior to my own diagnosis, but I was always uncomfortable about it.

    Acasia Vicknair
    The massive pink push and the slogans were always really demeaning, diminishing, and insulting, but prior to my diagnosis, I didn’t know if it was right that I had a “voice." I didn’t buy “pink” products that I felt contributed to pink washing, but I also didn’t speak out. 

    Since my own diagnosis, I have an even greater personal understanding of not only how it feels, but how a lot of “pink” actually harms. I am utterly disgusted that breast cancer is the only disease that I know of that is sexualized AND trivialized, at the same time. We are simultaneously force-fed, “You are lucky to get a free boob job” sentiments, while also being accosted with, “Oh, breast cancer! You’re lucky, that’s nothing these days.” 

    Breast cancer is respected some of the time, mostly by people whose lives have been tragically touched by it, but breast cancer *awareness* is exploited the large majority of the time. 
  • There is no other cancer, or physical health diagnosis, that is “pushed” in the ways that breast cancer is -- by ribbon, by color, by slogan.

    Meanwhile, my friends with metastatic breast cancer are, literally, dying around me -- despite the walks/runs, the ribbons, and the baked goods smeared with pink frosting, the sports jerseys and the all pink everything mentality that happens during October. 

    Many people do not realize that a large percentage of “pink” products are not donating anything to any cause, let alone a cause that funds research for a cure. Many products that sport a pink ribbon are just capitalizing on a cancer with a “pretty” ribbon color. They say they are raising awareness, yet we are aware. They say they are “honoring” our community by plastering pink ribbons on advertisements and products, yet we don’t feel honored by “save the ta ta’s” campaigns. 

  • We would feel honored if we felt heard and if our friends and family weren’t dying around us. It’s dismissive and disrespectful.

    Acasia Vicknair

    I was diagnosed last year and when October rolled around, I was surprised by the number of “chain mail” messages I received on social media. The, “Hey girl, can you put a heart emoji on your Facebook wall for breast cancer awareness month…?” I honestly was attempting to avoid that this year as those posts are difficult and can be triggering. 

    Once you have a cancer diagnosis, you’re a cancer patient for life -- you are living between the blood work, scans, followups, and scares, but we don’t live the way we did before the diagnosis. It’s modified living which we are EVER so grateful for, but to trivialize the diagnosis is to trivialize the life led after the diagnosis. 

    We are changed, not by choice but by circumstance. And we integrate those new changes, that new person, as best we can into the prior one. But ... we don’t need a month of thoughtless and insensitive triggers. We need a cure.