October is covered in a fresh coat of Pepto-Bismol pink every year, ostensibly to raise awareness of breast cancer. But here’s what I found out – it’s less about awareness and more about a marketing opportunity. There is no governing body to oversee companies slapping pink ribbons on everything from leggings to cocktails to athletic supporters. The general public, having been “bashed over the head” with the pink ribbons every year, are hoodwinked into thinking that they are helping the cause when instead they’re just buying into the marketing.
And for those legitimate uses of the pink ribbon? The companies that actually do contribute to breast cancer causes? Only a small fraction – the estimate is 2%-7% – of those monies go to research into advanced, terminal, Stage 4, metastatic cancer.
I’ve been fumbling around for the better part of a year, trying to figure out what to do with my life while knowing that I have a much earlier expiration date than I had originally anticipated. Educating my Facebook friends and family seemed a good way to funnel my anger and frustration about my disease and hopefully help the folks in my life have a better understanding of what I’m going through.
I think that I was successful in opening some eyes and certainly in raising money for a charity that donates 100% of its proceeds to Stage 4 research (metavivor.org). I know that a large donation from my old high school’s volleyball team went to that organization when in previous years it had gone to a larger, more well-known but perhaps not as Stage 4 friendly organization. Posting those facts and statistics made me feel empowered. Like I was using my disease and anger for good.
You know that feeling, when you were younger, and you’re hanging out in a bar and you’ve been maybe a little bit over served and suddenly you and your friends are that much more smart, that much more erudite and that much more able to solve all the problems of the world? You feel empowered and useful and like nothing can ever stop your brilliance? I remember that feeling.
You know what I also remember? Waking up after a lousy night’s sleep because the bed was spinning and I was losing my dinner of nachos and vinegar fries. The headache, the sour stomach, and feeling of dread. The hangover that was sure to make my day at work an absolute nightmare.
I’m kind of left with that feeling now. Spouting all the statistics and admittedly picking out the worst ones to shock people into paying attention has left me feeling nauseated and headache-y and feeling my mortality so much more than I typically allow myself.
What I was able to ignore in posting about 113 deaths from MBC per day and 30% of early stage diagnoses turning into a metastatic diagnosis and a median life span of 33 months from MBC diagnosis was the fact that all of these statistics apply to ME! I am going to be one of the 113 deaths one day. I had an earlier stage breast cancer that metastasized. And I am 15 months into a median 33 month life span.
My denial mechanisms are a little faulty after all of this “bashing over the head” information. In attempting to educate and enlighten those closest to me, I didn’t realize that I would be constantly reminding myself that my clock is ticking very loudly. And, my God, is that depressing.
To look at me, you’d never know that I have a terminal disease. And I do still feel OK. That’s one of the hardest things about this disease. I don’t look sick. I don’t feel sick. But I am dying. It’s easy for people to forget that. It’s a shame I can’t do the same.