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.
Having just had my 1st anniversary of discovering lump, and being told “you have cancer, we’re just not sure of it’s type and whether it’s spread”, my head is so full of BC again! Just when I think I am putting a bit of space between it and me, another date crops up! 29th Sept type and poss node involvement, 4th Oct, WLE and full node removal, 19th Oct – no nodes involved but we think you should have chemo anyway! It just goes on and on! Then the month of pink and fluffy! Much love x
I can very much identify with you S – I was in a very similar place last year, and still had my post chemo buzz haircut so was constantly reminded. This year feels very different. I’m wishing you a healing time ahead and will be with you as you plough through your landmark days too. Hugs P x
My BC was diagnosed on the 24th Sept 2009, My mastectomy was on the 16th October. So in a few weeks I will of been cancer free for the second year.. Fingers crossed.. I like how you stoke the flames of truth.. xxx
My goodness, to think that we were following such a similar path in our different parts of the world. The very day you were diagnosed, I was making an appointment to see my Doc………… I will reach the 2 year mark but will not be breathing freely as the Big Check is coming up. Thanks x
Oh, i know…it’s a comin’
In its advent,I decided to spend time exploring and finding one charity that fits for me, that uses the money in a way I am good with and focus on that.
It has helped me immensely in seeing the the glass half full of pink lemonade.
Oh Lauren you make me smile, I feel as if I can hear your voice with your rich expressions 🙂 Your approach is very wise too – finding the organisation which feels right for you. Cheers (clinks lemonade glass) P x
We share a cancerversary, give or take a day or two. I was diagnosed 19th Sept 2004 – it’s amazing how these landmark dates are burned into our brains!
What a coincidence – it seems that many of us had our lives change around the same time. Yes, it is so true that these dates are burned onto our minds, just as the words which conveyed the news are ones we remember letter for letter. Hugs x
Oh dear…. I feel the same way you do… and Marie…. your dx date: 9/19…. in 2006, 9.19 was the day of The Big Surgery. I can relate well to being right in the thick of it in October. I was in and out of so many facilities run by Sloan Kettering in September as everything was being properly “prepped” for the sea of pink. Pink made me feel good until I became a part of this blog community. Pink is beginning to (already does?) nauseate me. Our st4 sisters? It really saddens me that they get ONE day. They need EVERY day…. I am personally touched by this RIGHT NOW (seeking out clinical trials for a dear friend). I suffer the guilt of surviving when I see what so many others are going through. Wish you weren’t half way around the world….I’m with you…. October 13… we need to make a BIG splash…. I’m brain challenged this morning… hit a pothole on my way home last night… dark, somewhat desolate roads, blew out two tires, drove home anyway (no cell service to call for help anyway). The TV is filled with 9/11 stuff… distractions everywhere!! No way to write cohesively or coherently when I’m like this! xoxoxox
Thanks AM – yes isn’t it hard to think of how to change the flow in a way that is respectful, appropriate and effective.Glad you are safe – your journey homes really scary, Take care xo
Metastatic breast cancer day. Wow! How will the merchants process that one? I also suffer from October dread, and especially now that my wedding anniversary in October will not be celebrated for the first time because I’m in the middle of a breakup. The whole pink thing is bound to make me snarky, given that I have more problems in my life than pink can ever solve. Don’t we all? Thanks for your post, which is excellent as usual.
Yes I dread to think how MBC Day could be marketed. I am so so sorry to hear of your breakup and can see how tough October is going to be. We may be half a world distant but I send love, friendship and solidarity. xx
Thanks a million, Philippa. My birthday is also in October, as is my brother’s. So we can at least celebrate that part of October. But not the Extreme October.
Great post, Philippa. We keep learning and evolving don’t we? My views have certainly changed/evolved since last time this year too. I’ve learned a great deal from fellow bloggers such as yourself. I’ll be waiting for those upcoming posts of yours. And yes, I agree one day on Octoboer for mets…simply deplorable.
Thanks N and yes it is fascinating to see how we develop and how much we learn, especially from each other. I look forward to seeing your posts and thoughts too P 🙂
I know what you mean, Philippa, about perspective changing with time. It is hard to believe in the heat of the moment, my eyes would see past my own situation, but it happens. And I’m looking forward to seeing our blogger friends attack Pinktober with the same fierce determination they discuss everything. That’s one good thing about October.
Yes, S it is really hard to believe just how much our perspective changes and evolves. I am also interested to see the feisty pink debates – I love the spirit and level of discussion brought from so many different directions. I feel a major snarkfest coming up 🙂
I’m relatively new to the BC world, but dread Pinktober like a veteran. Especially now that I know that Komen isn’t all its marketed to be, I find myself getting peeved every time I see a pink ribbon on a container in the grocery store. Once we see more breakthroughs in research, they can paint the world pink, but until then, I will continue to dread Pinktober.
Isn’t it funny how quickly our take on the pink branding changes? I think voices are going to shout loud this year! And it is good to have solidarity during the whole period too.
Beautiful, thought-provoking post. I, too, am dreading Pinktober….all the merchandise and so on! I hope I can avoid stores, but unfortunately, one has to eat. I also have something special for Oct. 13 to remember a friend who died of mets.
I’m sorry so many of your cancerversaries are around October. Mine are in the winter. No matter when the cancer is found, we never forget, and it is the worst time in our lives quite possibly….
Thanks for your kind words B. I am quite fortunate in that I have yet to see any pink marketing at all here! So the problem is almost the opposite, and in fact I have not seen any reference to Awareness Month. I look forward to seeing your post on October 13th.
On the plus side about the October cancerversaries – at least it is just the one month even if it is quite “full on”.
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Great posting! I like your term, “extreme October.” Very fitting. Those cancerversaries forever stick in our minds, don’t they? I’m sorry yours happens to fall in October.