Gifts are a funny thing, ya know. Many people see gifts as something given to them, wrapped up in pretty paper and topped with a bow. Sometimes people see a gift as having received money or charity or something they need but couldn't otherwise afford. Ask me? I'd say those are more like.... well, presents.
I'd like to take a moment and share the gifts that For 3 Sisters received this past Thanksgiving.
Earlier this month, I was made aware that several of our Road to Resources participants didn't have the means to have a Thanksgiving dinner this year. Whether it was financial means or even the means to muster the energy (while in treatment) to cook, it just wasn't happening. And so, For 3 Sisters set out to provide Thanksgiving meals to four families!
Our adventure started Thursday evening before Thanksgiving! I picked up two of our volunteers, Jennifer and Justin, and we fought the pre-holiday traffic to pick up dinners from Boston Market and Mission BBQ in Rockville.
Then off to deliver to the first two families!
Our first stop was to visit Gemena and her daughter, Giana! They enjoyed a Mission BBQ Thanksgiving which included a smoked turkey, and ton of fixin's. I've been told that Mission's Mac & Cheese "is life!".
Leaving the fun and shenanigans behind (Gemena and Justin are quite the hoot when they're together), we were off to deliver a Boston Market Thanksgiving to Roz and Sarah! They enjoyed a turkey with the more traditional fixin's!
After a good night's sleep, and no pressure to cook in the morning (thanks Travis & Rachel), Jamie joined me Thanksgiving morning to deliver the remaining meals to the other two families! It was an adventure - we were in uncharted territory - and we didn't get lost!
First stop was to bring Mission BBQ Thanksgiving to Michelle and her family! We met Michelle's husband and granddaughter (who took this marvelous picture, LOL).
Then off to visit Tomia and her family! It was lovely to see Tomia and her mom again but we also go to meet Tomia's daughter and granddaughter!
So are you wondering about the gifts we received - the ones I mentioned at the beginning of the post? Well you see, the families we delivered meals to think they received a gift. And perhaps to them, it was a gift. But really these families gave us a gift. They gave us the honor of sharing in their life, sharing their families, and allowing us to be a part of a day in which we share everything for which we are most thankful. You can't wrap that up in pretty paper and put a bow on it, but boy oh boy you sure can feel the love. It's special. It's a gift. And we're thankful!
Thanksgiving meals are made possible because you support For 3 Sisters with your donations! YOU made Thanksgiving possible for these four families. Thank you!
Special thanks to Jamie Hamilton, Jennifer McNeal, and Justin Chuckerel for volunteering to deliver meals to these families.
And special thanks to Patty Gee, Kathryn Loftus, Kellee Southern, Janice Chiddoo, and Karin Kane for making special donations to offset the costs for the meals.
And a great big thanks to Todd at Mission BBQ in Rockville, MD for donating a turkey to one of these families! Their food is delicious, so stop in for lunch and give Todd a huge thanks!
Today was my first day back in the office after a much needed week of rest and relaxation. Marshall (The Pink Fireman) and I took our first vacation together last week since we started For 3 Sisters six years ago. One of our dear friends gifted us a week at his family's beach house in the Outer Banks. We stayed in a little beach town called Avon. It was wonderful. Off season - quiet - relaxing - and even still somewhat warm for most of the week.
One day we stopped at a local place called Sonny's Restaurant located in Hatteras Village. Everyone was so friendly! As we ate our lunch, the waitress stopped by our table and commented on our truck. The staff loved it! She visited a moment and shared stories about her connection with cancer and then went off to serve other guests.
About the time we were finishing, our waitress returned and proceeded to crumple up the check in front of us. The owner wouldn't let us pay for lunch. And our waitress, she wouldn't let us leave a tip. She thanked us for our work and insisted that we let her serve us today. And if that wasn't wonderful enough, the owner came to visit with us and supported For 3 Sisters with a very generous donation. The day was surreal. The moment was absolutely beautiful. If you're ever in this neck of the woods, please stop by Sonny's! The food was delicious, the service was impeccable, and the support - they treat ya like family! And ya know how I feel about family!
We also made a special trip to see the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It was beautiful. It towered above us and it was remarkable to learn the history of how this mammoth 12-story structure served as a beacon of light for ships to navigate safely in the dark through the treacherous shoals of the Outer Banks.
In that moment, Marshall and I renewed our steadfast commitment to For 3 Sisters and to you. We are committed to serving each of you to our fullest capacity. For 3 Sisters, like this lighthouse, will continue to be a beacon of hope to those lost in the dark --- the darkness that is breast cancer. You will never fight breast cancer alone!
Don't let the twinkle in her eye or that beautiful smile fool you. Behind that smile lay a twistedly funny sense of humor, and a ferocious, no nonsense, determination to beat her sworn enemy into oblivion. She was wickedly fierce, a whole lot of stubborn, a bit ornery, and undeniably determined that Metastatic Breast Cancer would not define who she was. Her name was Lisa Sloat. And she was a breast cancer ass kicker to her very last breath.
Lisa was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer in 2012 after successfully beating early stage breast cancer a few years earlier. Her hip had broken while she slept. The cancer returned and metastasized to her bones. She learned that day that she'd have a long journey of treatments and surgeries ahead of her, but that didn't stop Lisa. And it didn't squash her uncanny ability to laugh in cancer's face.
Lisa came into my life in early 2014 when she enrolled into our Road to Resources program. I remember thinking to myself, if I was a beer drinker, she'd be a fun lady to sit and have a beer with. She was gritty and she was tough. Looking back I think that's why she thrived all these years. We shared many late night conversations, long text messages, celebrations, and even a few cries.
But then she got the news a few weeks ago that the last of her treatment options had failed and she should start making her final plans. Those plans included a trip to Disney World with her best friend. She fought tooth and nail to be well for that trip; though her body had other plans for her. Despite a lengthy stay in the hospital, they sent Lisa home on hospice. And you know what she said when she got there.....
I didn't come home on hospice to die. I came home to rest so I COULD FIGHT!"
And fight she did --- until her very last breath last night surrounded by friends and her two fur-babies.
Rest in Peace, Lisa. Your ring says it all.
***Note: The photographer, Lisa Otto, is not the same Lisa in this story.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we're nearly half way through it! I'm always humbled by the number of people who host fundraisers to support For 3 Sisters and the men and women we serve. This month we have quite a few awesome 3rd party fundraisers we wanted to share with you!
And special thanks for those who hosted fundraisers this month that have already finished:
Wife Behind the Fire
Pampered Chef by Marne Tragert
Hoffman Chevrolet Cadillac in Hagerstown, MD is donating $50 to For 3 Sisters for every vehicle sold in the month of October! Here's their information:
Address: 101 S. Edgewood Drive, Hagerstown, Maryland 21740
Wine Shop at Home's, Mrs. Heather Sherbert is donating 10% of her October sales to For 3 Sisters. You can order directly on her website here.
Left to Right:
*Milano Rose of Sangiovese- watermelon and strawberry flavors $25.00
*le Cadeau Rose Sparkling- Bubbly Rendevous with orange blossom, raspberry, and watermelon aromas $30.00
*Fact Blush- Sweet Rose Wine- strawberry and raspberry jam flavors $21.00
Avon representative, Kiyaunda Bailey, is donating 40% of your purchase from Avon's Give Hope line to For 3 Sisters! But wait! Avon is donating 20% of the net proceeds of their Pink Hope products to the Avon Foundation too, so your purchase goes twice as far! Click here to browse and make a purchase! Make sure you mention For 3 Sisters!
Pure Romance consultant, Sheila Tempchin, is donating 10% of October's party sales to For 3 Sisters!
If you're interested in hosting a party or are in need of products, contact Sheila at 410-913-5963 or at email@example.com
Learn more about Pure Romance here.
Jessica Joseph, a SeneGence independent distributor, is donating 10% of her October sales to For 3 Sisters! Check her group out here!
When is a garden not a garden? When it's a sanctuary. This weekend friends and family gathered at the home of their friend, Susan, to help turn an overgrown, lackluster flower bed and front porch into a beautiful respite garden full of love.
Susan, a young single mom, was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer just before Thanksgiving last year. Her friend Terri reached out to For 3 Sisters and told us of their upcoming garden day - a day spent to honor Susan and to create a sanctuary in which she could sit and enjoy the beauty, the flowers, the butterflies, and the birds. A place that would bring smiles to her face, peace, comfort, and healing.
As the final planning came together, the garden crew learned they'd only raised 50% of what they needed to complete their project of love. And with that, For 3 Sisters was honored and proud to sponsor the remaining funds needed for Susan's sanctuary!
I asked Marshall, our founder and Pink Fireman, how he felt about being a part of Susan's garden project.
"I think it's great! This garden is a perfect example how a person, who has a friend or loved one affected by breast cancer, can improve the quality of life for their loved one while they're in treatment. "It doesn't always have to be about jumping out of airplanes or going to see the Grand Canyon. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone is right in their own front yard."
Susan's garden crew cleared out the old stuff, pressure washed porch furniture and fixtures, spruced up the paint, trimmed bushes on the property, planted new flowers, and put down fresh mulch! And though we had to leave before the final reveal, we captured some "work in progress photos"!
Susan is a beautiful, funny, spirited young woman who is clearly loved by many. It was a wonderful gift to witness the outpouring of love and unconditional support by Susan and Gabby's friends. The laughter and smiles that filled her yard this weekend are sure to help all the beautiful plants and flowers to flourish. Of this I'm sure! #susanstrong
A Tutu is more than a tutu when it makes an impact. Wait, what? What's a tutu you ask?
You know, it's that fabric-y looking thing you wear around your waist --- like a ballerina. Here --- like this:
Okay, okay so not EVERYONE wears a tutu quite like this guy does but that's what makes his tutu so special. Actually, it's what makes HIM and THE TUTU PROJECT so special! Meet Bob Carey, also known as Ballerina Bob, in the breast cancer community.
During a TEDMED talk, Bob shared that he uses self-portraiture as a form of therapy; a way to help him deal with life when it throws him a curve ball. When his beautiful wife, Linda, was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer, Bob took his self-therapy to a new place. That place involved a pink tutu.... and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon....
And a bunch of other really cool and beautiful places....
What started as a means for Bob to cope with his own feelings about Linda's diagnosis, and a means to bring light and laughter into a dark place in Linda's life, quickly turned into a viral sensation and a global phenomenon. Bob and his pink tutu, better known now as The Tutu Project, is a beacon of hope, of light, and inspiration to people across the world looking for that special and powerful little something that reminds them that no matter what lay ahead of them, it's okay to smile and it's okay to laugh - you are not alone.
And that's Linda - the inspiration, the love, the life behind The Tutu Project. She's amazing! Not a day goes by where she isn't doing something amazing within the breast cancer community, The Tutu Project, The Carey Foundation, or their photography business, Bob Carey Photography. Linda has been living with Metastatic Breast Cancer and though the disease does not define who she is, she epitomizes the sheer grit and determination it takes to thrive with MBC - and she makes it look effortless.
So why am I telling you all about The Tutu Project and Bob and Linda Carey? Because I'm proud to announce that For 3 Sisters was selected to receive a $15,000 grant from The Tutu Project! We have been partners in the endeavor to improve the quality of life of men and women affected by breast cancer since 2015, and it is because of their generosity, past and present, that our Road to Resources program can continue to grow and flourish, and provide personalized resource case management services and financial support to men and women fighting and surviving breast cancer!
We are honored that The Tutu Project of The Carey Foundation continues to believe in our mission and to invest in our Road to Resources program, allowing us to provide quality, personalized support to the breast cancer community across the United States.
I invite you to check out the Tutu Project and The Carey Foundation for yourselves, and share the love you have for For 3 Sisters with them, as well. Support for them is support for us too. Starting October 1 thru November 3, they are hosting their #Dare2Tutu campaign! Check it out - it's a ton of fun, you can win some great prizes, AND you're raising money to help men and women affected by breast cancer!
Will you #Dare2Tutu?
Where does the time go! I can't believe I haven't blogged since April. Well, I guess I can believe it because things have been super busy and exciting around here and I can finally make the official announcement!
WE'VE OFFICIALLY OPENED OUR NEW HEADQUARTERS!
Woo hoo!!! When we started For 3 Sisters six years ago, we were working out of 10x10 home office. Now we have a beautiful space to call home that we can share with you and the community! Over the next several days, I'll be writing about our adventure and everyone who made it possible, so make sure you come back and share in the journey!
Here's our official press release!
For 3 Sisters Open Headquarters in Montgomery County
to Advance National Cancer Resources Program
Maryland Executives Contribute to Office Opening
Olney, MD, July 11, 2017 – For 3 Sisters, a national grassroots organization with a mission to raise awareness and improve the quality of life for men and women affected by breast cancer, today announced the organization will commemorate the opening of its headquarters in Olney, Maryland with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 27, 2017. The opening of the For 3 Sisters office is a milestone for the organization that addresses the financial and emotional challenges faced by breast cancer fighters and survivors.
According to a March 2014 report from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers, four years after being treated, 1 in 4 breast cancer survivors say they are worse off financially.
“After losing three sisters to breast cancer, we discovered that the process by which breast cancer fighters and survivors asked for and received resource support, was fundamentally flawed,” said co-founder Marshall Moneymaker. “Recognizing that a breast cancer patient’s physical health, treatment status, education and literacy level, income, and access to the internet were potential impediments to successfully securing financial support, we eliminated the weakest link in the process—the patient burden—and instead created a new pathway to success.”
The new offices will be staffed by founders Marshall Moneymaker and his wife Shannon Moneymaker, and the volunteers who are dedicated to providing the same compassionate care that has made For 3 Sisters one of the nation's leading organizations for integrative resource case management in the cancer community. “In the last three years, nearly 100 women have received products, services, and financial aid valued at more than $200,000 as a direct result of our Road to Resources program,” said co-founder, Shannon Moneymaker. “We’re excited that our new headquarters affords us the opportunity to grow the scope and capacity of our program so that we can serve more men and women affected by breast cancer.”
The 1,500-square-foot office space, furniture, equipment, and décor came together through the generosity of local businesses through in-kind donations. For 3 Sisters would like to thank the following companies that have made this new headquarters a reality:
“It's hard to find someone who hasn't been touched by breast cancer, and our family is no different. It's important for us to try to help mitigate the devastating effects of cancer on sufferers, survivors, and their families, and donating to For 3 Sisters does just that,” said Danielle Dart, Owner of Dart Homes. “We are proud to contribute in any way that we can to help continue the admirable work For 3 Sister's does both within our community and nationally.”
John Moyer of Moyer & Sons Moving and Storage adds, “as someone who's lost a close family member to cancer, and have had a few who's beat it, I was personally moved by Marshall's story and what he and Shannon have been doing with For 3 Sisters. I knew that Moyer & Sons wanted to be a part of it. We look forward to lending a hand wherever we can in the future.”
About For 3 Sisters
For 3 Sisters is a national grassroots organization dedicated to raising awareness and improving the lives of men and women affected by breast cancer. It was founded by retired firefighter, Marshall Moneymaker and his wife Shannon after he lost three older sisters to breast cancer. For 3 Sisters is committed to supporting breast cancer fighters and survivors in any way possible so no man or woman fights breast cancer alone. For more, visit www.F3S.org.
Have you ever taken a moment and asked yourself "what's my story?" Everyone has a story, and each one of those stories is unique. Even your story!
Here at For 3 Sisters, I've been privileged to hear the stories of many women who have been affected by breast cancer; though breast cancer is where is the similarities end. Each story is different. Each story inspires in its own way.
This past week, I read a story that moved me to tears. I'm not sure if calling it a story does it justice --- it's more like art --- in word form. It's beautiful. It's heart wrenching. It's powerful.
I started working with Denise earlier this month after she came to us looking for help to stop her eviction. Denise was diagnosed with breast cancer a few days after Christmas and her job let her go not long after they learned of her diagnosis.
Denise is a veteran of the U.S. Army. She was deployed to Iraq during Operation Desert Storm/Shield. She is strong willed, organized, and just as pleasant as you'd want anyone to be. She's simply delightful. But all the pleasantry and delight in the world didn't change the fact we were working against the clock. We were running out of time.
In my efforts to secure funds to stop Denise's eviction, I needed her to write a personal statement for me. I ask this of all the women I work with. Some programs/organization to whom we apply ask for a story or statement about how breast cancer has affected their life. You'd a thought I was asking Denise for a billion dollars in cash. She struggled. She couldn't. She couldn't find the words --- she wasn't even sure she wanted to find the words --- it would mean looking backwards when everything in her was willing herself to look forward.
And then she saw Mimi's testimony. Mimi, another woman in our program, spoke at our appreciation event last year. We caught it on video and shared it on our website and social media. Denise was on our Facebook page and heard Mimi's story. And she was inspired. Because of Mimi's story, Denise was able to put her own story to paper in a way unlike anything I've read before.
Dear Breast Cancer;
Here it is I am the third-generation Breast Cancer victim. You took my Grandmother before she or I had a chance to even lay eyes on one another. Then you took my mother in her prime and I a tinder age of 5. Leaving me with an Alcoholic father to raise me. No hugs and kisses before bed. No fond memories of going to playground with Mommy and Daddy. Crying my eyes out until my father would beat me for making so much noise. All because I missed my Mommy.
Have I not been through enough?
Having 9 uncles was great, just more homes to be shuffled back and forth to. I didn’t know it at the time but it was not a childhood for a female child. One Saturday evening my father’s drunk friend decided I was ripe for the picking. I was only 14. He entered the kitchen while I was preparing fish dinners for my father’s card game. Didn’t anybody tell this fool it’s not a good idea to mess with a woman in the kitchen. He grabs my butt and with all my might I pounded his head with a cast iron skillet. Again, my father beat me for hitting his friend. Being an only child, it left no one on my side.
Have I not been through enough?
High school is rough for anybody, but growing up in Brooklyn made it harder. I was an excellent student. All A’s, honor roll… you would think my father would have been proud of me. Instead I was called out of name and insulted in more ways that I care to share. So, by senior year I stop caring too. I finally gave in the influence of the streets.
Running away, hanging out, drugs, men and alcohol. I didn’t even bother to go to school anymore. Anything to keep me out of the house. Somehow someone got through and Ifollowed my friends to California. Make a new start.
Have I not been through enough?
I enrolled in college, found a job…yes completed High School. Meet and married what I thought was the man of my dreams. But it wasn’t long before you followed me there. It was 2 years into the relationship I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I though yes this is it. Then I gave birth to my second son. I felt on top of the world. I had survived you. Living in Cali, with my own family. How short lived it was, 9 months after the birth of my second son he died. We tried to pull through, but between the fights and arguments we managed to make one more son, by the time he was 2 years old. We throw in the towel and I was now a single mother.
Have I not been through enough?
In order to take care of a family of three, I joined the army… it wasn’t to be all I could be. I had to fight for my children. Make a home for them. I didn’t get to enjoy motherhood as I once had. The children now were being sent to family while I got orders to different duty stations. Somewhere in there my entire support system crumbled. Grandparents dying, then my father pasting away. All before I was 30 years old. I married my second husband just to have someone to watch my children while Uncle Sam sent me wherever. I never thought I would ever have to go to war. But I was determined I wasn’t coming home in a body bag. Only to come home to find out my husband had turned into a crack addict. Everything I worked so hard for was all gone.
Have I not been through enough?
Ok now it’s on. Put my pride back in my pocket, and rolled up my sleeves. Got rid of the addict husband, got my kids through college, even found time to get some decent training outside of the military. Although it wasn’t my college degree. I managed to find a decent job, a safe home and started to live again. Then the one and only person who
has always been there for me you took her too. My best friend. Now I am all alone. Does this make you happy, does this make you feel like you won?
Have I not been through enough?
I am so numb, I don’t feel anymore. All I can do is hold on to my children. Here I stayed for 8 years. I was a high function zombie. Went to work, home. Repeat. After teasing a co-worker about me traveling with her home to Africa. She took me up on it. I spent New Year’s 2002 in the motherland. It was truly a healing. It reminded me of a struggle my ancestors endured. It showed me my strengths. It took away my fears. I also meet my future husband. Which wasn’t bad at all. Just what the doctor ordered.
I have had enough!
After 15 years of marriage, two sons that went on to make their mother proud. Now two beautiful grandchildren. I am feeling invincible again. My direction clear, I enroll back in college after many moons. Honor student with a 4.0, husband by my side. Life is looking like it’s on my side for once. Then I get the news, my mammogram needs to be
repeated. At first I think, somebody screwed up. I just had my annual breast checkup from my GYN. Neither she or I detected anything. No big deal go in to repeat the mammogram. A few days later I get the results. I need to come in for a biopsy. Since its so close to Christmas, one more week won’t hurt. I am in denial. On 12/28/16 I was
informed that it was Breast Cancer. I had the testing for the BRCA gene. Consulted with an Oncologist, General Surgeon, plastic surgeon, Radiologist and a nurse coordinator. All in the same day. Before I left that day, I was handed a booklet. That said welcome, the rest was a blur. I came home and just sat for hours trying to make sense of it all. Then I got angry. Why me? What the hell did I ever do? When do I get my turn?
I have had enough!
It’s been three weeks since my bilateral Mastectomy. I know I still have a long way to go before I can get back some sort of normalicy, but it will come. My family has rallied around me. Its brought me and my husband even closer. It’s made my mission here on earth clear. When people tell, me I will pull through this, I look at them and say “why are
you worried I am not”. I know this is all about my spiritual journey. Is in God’s hands, he told me he has my back. I know it won’t be easy but all I have been through in my life prepared me for this. Because of this, one tear has dropped. When I am done with this lesson, I hope to help others through. Mostly it’s to get others to say,
I have had enough!
Tell your story. You never know who is listening.
Scanxiety [pronounced scan-zy-it-ee] - have you heard of it?
It's a marriage of the words scan and anxiety, and it's often experienced by those who have been diagnosed with cancer. It's the anxiety usually felt by cancer patients before they go in for a scan (for example, a PET scan, CT scan, Mammogram, etc.) and a fear that their scan will show a reoccurrence or progression.
But did you know that it's possible to experience scanxiety without ever having cancer? Yep. It's true. As a matter of fact, I'm experiencing scanxiety right now, and I've never had cancer.
Six years ago (I was 34) I had a funky experience with my boobs. My left one was noticeably bigger than my right. Now, it's not unusual for a woman's breasts to be different sizes but usually the difference is slight. My difference was more than slight. So in September 2011, I had my first mammogram, my first ultrasound, and my first breast MRI. The experts ruled out breast cancer, specifically Inflammatory Breast Cancer, and sent me home with a case of inflammation - something I needed to watch closely.
My doctor and I watched things closely and since the swelling hadn't worsened and no new symptoms appeared, my doctor felt as though mammograms were no longer necessary. That is, until, I went to a new OBGYN in January 2014. Dr. Hussain recommended I have a mammogram, even though I wasn't yet 40 years old, just to make sure everything was on the up and up. So I did. And it wasn't.
In two short years, my mammogram went from normal to abnormal. The first mammogram/ultrasound showed a cluster of cysts and a dilated duct in my left breast. Six months later, my follow up mammogram/ultrasound showed growth in the cysts and a new mass in my left breast. They couldn't say with certainty that the mass was benign (not cancer) so I scheduled an appointment with a breast surgeon.
Dr. Pamela Wright, an awesome breast surgeon, took a look at my scans and decided that an immediate breast biopsy was in my best interest. So I had the biopsy right then and there. I'd later find out that my tumor was benign. It was a fibroadenoma. A follow up mammogram six months later would show that everything was virtually the same - no new changes.
So hear I am scheduled for a mammogram tomorrow and I'm nervous as hell. Despite my better judgement, I didn't go for a mammogram in 2016 since my doctor said I could wait until 2017 when I turn 40. A lot can happen in a year! I've had new developments in my left breast nearly every mammogram. Will the one tomorrow be abnormal too? Will this be the scan where I hear the dreaded words so many of the people we help have heard? Scanxiety - it's a thang. And it sucks!
There are all kinds of great ways to deal with scanxiety - some of the techniques which I use myself.
If you or someone you know suffers from scanxiety, for whatever reason, I offer you this:
Have you ever experienced scanxiety? Share your experience with us in the comments below. Tell us how you cope with scanxiety. You never know who you might help with your story!
I've been meaning to write about this for a while but hadn't gotten around to it. I talked about it with the awesome employees at WeddingWire back in October and the conversation was eye opening, and yet I still didn't write. But a recent game that's popped up on Facebook has compelled me to write it about now. What is it, you ask?
In American society, we've come to use the blanket term breast cancer awareness for everything; from pink socks, pink ribbons, and pink hair, to games on Facebook asking you to post the color of your bra or a heart as your status. Is there anything wrong with these things? Absolutely not. Pink socks and tutus are delightful! And who doesn't love a pretty heart. But can we in good faith and conscience call it raising awareness?
Let's talk about it, shall we?
The term raising awareness started off well intended and then slowly over the decades the term has been watered down. It's now the catch-all phrase for anything having to do with breast cancer, and that's unfortunate because it's lost its true meaning and value.
Let's assume (yes, I know what they say about assuming) that a majority of the population in the United States has knowledge that breast cancer exists. If awareness of the disease is at a high, then what, if any, awareness are we raising?
On the flip side, for the population minority who is unaware about breast cancer, why do we think that seeing a pink pair of socks (I swear I have nothing against pink socks) or a pink shirt will suddenly make them aware about breast cancer? The population minority doesn't know enough to make the correlation. It's just pink socks to them. If they could correlate the two then they'd already be aware about breast cancer, which takes us right back to my previous paragraph.
Are you still with me?
So often the actions we take are not actually raising awareness about breast cancer, but rather it's showing support for those affected by the disease. Both raising awareness and showing support are super important! Being accurate about which we're doing is as equally important!
How can you tell the difference? It's simple.
See? Simple. If someone is not learning something about breast cancer by your gesture or action then you're not raising awareness. And that's okay! Just call it what it is - showing support, giving support, raising support - just not raising awareness.
Two quick examples involving merchandise:
This advertisment popped up in my Facebook feed.
Look at these sneakers. Did you learn anything about breast cancer?
Nope. Then the sneakers don't raise awareness. They're simply a way for people who like cool shoes to show their support. That's great! There's nothing wrong with wanting to wear cool shoes that show support. So let's call it "The Sole of Breast Cancer Support" instead.
*Interestingly enough, in the smaller print they mention that a portion of the proceeds will be donated to organizations that support breast cancer fighters and survivors.
I stumbled across this shirt on the internet. Take a look.
Did you learn anything about breast cancer?
Yep. This shirt makes you aware that Male Breast Cancer exists; a fact that sadly many people don't know. (1 in 1000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, in case you're wondering.)
So in this case, the person wearing this shirt is raising awareness, and could be showing his or her support for men with breast cancer.
Now that you understand the difference between raising awareness and showing support, I encourage you to choose the phrase that accurately reflects your gesture. I think you'll find the support for your gesture will grow when people can agree on what it is you're actually doing.
Okay - last quick thing about the newest Facebook game - placing a heart in your status for breast cancer awareness. If you're not aware of how it works, women are encouraged to post a heart as their Facebook status. Only a heart. They're then supposed to message other women to do the same for breast cancer awareness.
Folks, people are well intentioned. People who choose to participate in this game, as prescribed, are not bad people. They aren't stupid. They aren't evil doers who rose from the depths of pinkwashing hell. I promise.
People participating in this game have a connection to breast cancer - they know someone, they lost someone, they are someone who has breast cancer. Or maybe they love your own awareness and support efforts so they're posting it for you. Regardless of their connection, they're making a gesture and it's nice.
That said, we can probably agree (especially after having read this blog post) that the heart (and the private message) aren't actually raising awareness about breast cancer ----- but they can! There's actually an opportunity here.
Play the heart game but change how you play! For example:
Or share a link to a breast cancer topic that is meaningful to you. Maybe you know someone or lost someone to Metastatic Breast Cancer...
If you are compelled to play the heart game, or the bra game, or any other Facebook game for that matter, and you don't want to post a link in your status, then I encourage you to share it in the private message you send to other women. Don't miss the opportunity to truly raise awareness. There's room for both!
If you'd like help with links to reputable sources of information or organizations, just ask me! I'm happy to help you raise awareness in the most meaningful way!
Shannon Moneymaker is the Executive Director of F3S and experiences life in the breast cancer community, not through just her own eyes but through the eyes of others.
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