I have a chill in my stomach as I see the date on the calender. We are rapidly approaching a time of year when I am dragged kicking and screaming headlong into a face-off with my encounter with breast cancer.
Firstly, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which has turned into a Pinktoberfest of every imaginable product marketed with pink ribbons and pink anything in many parts of the world.
Secondly, it is a period loaded with my own Landmark Days, that is, anniversaries of significant cancer “milestones”. The first one is rapidly speeding towards me and is now less than 2 weeks away. That is September 23, the day I discovered “the lump” and the day that it all started. Being diagnosed at the beginning of October is a cruel move and means that awareness stares me in the face even more than usual. And just to add an extra bonus frisson, I will have my Big Annual Check in the middle of October. The stomach churning game of “Hunt the danger signal” Just in case there was any in danger of breast cancer slipping my mind.
Last October my head was very firmly in the “I-can’t-believe-that it-is-already-a-year-since-this-nightmare-started-while-I-can’t-believe-it’s-only-a-year” space. It had been impossible to imagine the one year point back at diagnosis time. The one year milestone was a time of intense and mixed emotions. Now, 12 months, 4 NEDs, innumerable needle sticks, 360 odd Tamoxifen, at least a dozen passionate encounters with Capt Paranoia and 3 memorable adventures I find myself in a somewhat different place.
Throughout this year, as I have parted company with the phase of treatments and appointments you live your life around, I have been able to see things from a slightly more objective perspective. I have also learned an incredible heap of things, some of which have shocked me and spurred me into shouting out. And as I am in a different space, I have a strong feeling that the Pinktober month is also taking on a different shade. It’s more like an “Extreme October”. There is a significant disconnect between the marketing Pink-everything in sight October extreme and the debate (or lack of it) around the need to progress in understanding breast cancer, especially metastatic and widely held beliefs such as the one that early detection guarantees cure. I find there is another extreme between the excess of marketing in many countries and the total lack in others. Last year I did not spot one single item of pink merchandise here, and in Thailand I saw evidence of the Awareness month in the hospital but not in the shops.
Last October my posts were mostly reflective and highly subjective. I marked my Cancerversay by writing a letter to Cancer which probed the thorny personal relationship I had developed with cancer. My Big Check came at the end of the month and I moved out of the month embracing a new phase. I think this October will be different. For one thing, I have learned a great deal from blogging peers about the limitations, shall we call them, of the pink campaigns. I am far more tuned in to the debate and am learning uncomfortable truths. The blogs I am reading and the friendships I am making are bringing me into a movement of questioning and challenging which I suspect will become even more vocal as the month wears on. I have been intrigued to hear that there have been some “overtures” made to some of my snarky, smart blogging buddies to write guest posts on commercial sites. I sense a counter pink movement this Extreme October.
In terms of Feisty Blue Gecko, I am forming a plan for how I will approach Extreme October posts, bearing in mind how much I love my spot on the fence. I have a particular plan forming for 13 October which has been designated Metastatic Breast Cancer Day. (Yep, one day – what a contradiction in itself).
I am intrigued to see how this Extreme October takes shape.