Over the last few months, I’ve seen quite a few posts entitled “Not all Cancer is pink”. I suspect it’s a reference to the ubiquitous publicity that many women’s cancer related advocates, bloggers and organisations attract. Although, whether this is publicity that reflects reality or actually works, is another thing
Those who use this phrase are perhaps concerned there is an imbalance and inherent unfairness in the distribution of support and are frustrated that their own cancer does not fare as well publicly? I share that frustration, however, I take my hat off to the battalions of advocates, bloggers and organisations who work very hard for breast and the various gynaecological cancers whether they push pink or not – and for the record, they don’t all push or even agree with the ‘pink’ thing, some of them find the pink stuff quite wrong (read here).
I’ve even seen this term used within my own community and it’s what has prompted me to write this post. “Not all cancer is pink ….. etc” is one of the worst example of NET awareness I’ve seen (…… and I see terrible examples almost daily). This is clearly an attempt to tie in the well-known ‘pink’ to the not so well-known ‘black and white’. The latest one about a patient who also has breast cancer being described as a ‘pink zebra’ makes me physically sick, in fact anything related to ‘zebra’ causes me anxiety. Notwithstanding the potential for upsetting hard-working women’s cancer organisations and the fact that those in the NET community who push the pink ‘insult’, do not have a corresponding ‘Not all cancer is blue’ article, I also think we might be missing a trick.
And here’s the trick which is my alternative view on where we should be focused – Not all Cancer is black and white and nothing in cancer is ever black and white. As I don’t want to indulge in ‘Cancer Olympics’ (it can backfire), I’m clearly talking about the context of the phrase ‘black and white’ rather than the ribbon colours.
Let me explain my logic. There are two sides to most people’s experience or perception of cancer. Firstly, symptoms appear, a diagnosis is made, treatment is applied and if it works, the patient will hopefully go into remission after a period of time, normally 5 years. The other side is that sadly, some people may not survive the ordeal and that even applies to certain so-called ‘pink’ cancers (metastatic breast cancer for example). Clearly there are variations of my very simple binary explanation but these two outcomes are very common scenarios.
However, many cancers (including my own Neuroendocrine Cancer) are often silent, produce vague symptoms, are difficult to diagnose, treatment plans can be a challenge, most metastatic patients and many with other stages will never really be cured, and will need lifelong support (another challenge we need to focus on). Clearly there are also variations on this theme but with many scenarios and different outcomes. Neuroendocrine Cancer has many ‘grey’ areas. That is the REALITY and no number of animal themed painted fingernails will change that.
Not all cancer is pink, that’s true. However, not all cancer is ‘black and white’ – some can be extremely ‘grey’. If we want more attention, let’s learn from other cancer awareness activities instead of attacking their colours. Lesson No 1 – they don’t use animals as icons because people won’t take them seriously.
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