It is about more than just a Pink Ribbon

The Pink Ribbon has become the symbol of breast cancer. The symbol of support, of caring, of donating to ‘the cause’. Many of us have heard the anger of those with other forms of cancer who think that breast cancer gets way more than its fair share of the cake and in some ways I would agree with them. The trouble is that there is a whole area of breast cancer which is overlooked in the sharing of this cake and that is those of us with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer. Just in the last few days I have heard that a friend died on Saturday, and just today that a colleague at work has died in the last few days of this disease. The flag at the college where I work if flying at half-mast as a mark of respect.

One of the reasons that breast cancer gets so much funding is because people have raised that money through charities for research into breast cancer, and because it is now acceptable for women to talk about having breast cancer, wearing a Pink Ribbon and being a survivor. Therefore the money should be spent for research into the disease that it was raised for. I know this doesn’t help if you have a rarer form of cancer, but what many of those who complain about the amount of funding that goes to breast cancer don’t realise is that there is about 30% of the breast cancer community that is only getting 3% of the funding directed straight at them and their needs. Do those who comment about the amount of funding that breast cancer gets realise how galling it is for us to hear these complaints? Do they know that we, in many ways, have the same complaint about the 97% of this funding that goes to Early Stage Breast Cancer?

I know a lot of men comment about the lack of support for Prostate cancer, but to me this seems partly to be caused by men being too coy to discuss the disease openly. At my place of work male members of staff were happy to grow a moustache for Movember, but when I tried to get some of them to take an interest in Prostate Cancer Awareness month … zilch, even from members of staff who have been treated for the disease. They were willing to do the ‘manly’ growing of a moustache to raise funds, but talk about the disease itself – hell no! It might lead to impotence aka a loss of manliness.

It is the same with testicular cancer. There have been a couple of cases of this at the college over the last few years, but no one really wants to talk about it. It is not ‘manly’ and yet it main affects younger men, and is highly treatable. Say what you like about Lance Armstrong, at least he raised the profile and understanding of this disease and actually spoke about it.

The public has to understand the problems of cancer as well as the successes. At the moment we are in a parallel world where they raise money by quoting the numbers who die, and claim that it must never happen again, and then they do very little about it once you are on the ‘dark side’. It is all very well to do research to stop people getting the disease in the first place, but it doesn’t help those of us who already have it. Bravo for finding ways to stop cancer metastasizing but what use is it to those who have already had metastasized cancer?

You can quote the numbers who have died from breast cancer as much as you like, I would just rather that you did a bit more to stop me becoming a part of that statistic. After all I believe it was Stalin who once said that a million deaths are a statistic, but one death is a tragedy. These are the faces of just a few of the tragedy’s of the last few years.



  1. Mrs W

    I am in total agreement and would also like to highlight awareness about the lack of research dollars going towards male breast cancer. This accounts for 1% of all breast cancers and receives far less then 1% of breast cancer research dollars.
    Wishing you many blessings.

  2. Mrs W, thanks for reminding me that I forgot to mention male breast cancer is in the shadow of metastatic breast cancer, which is in turn dwarfed by early stage breast cancer. They are the tag-alongs that the Pink Ribbons try to ignore. Pink Ribbons have a lot to answer for!

    This is a disease which has come to be about ‘boobs’ and ‘tatas’ and has been sexualised and made a feminist issue when it is not solely a feminine problem. I just notice on my tabs that I have male breast cancer as a something I have possibly only tabbed once (and when I wasn’t too sure how tabs worked) as something separate. I don’t think of it as being separate which is why I have just used general breast cancer terms – early stage, metastatic etc. I will have to use it as a separate tab more often.

    I don’t know if you watched the video but there was one man in the sea of faces. I have problems uploading photos (or just about anything really), and have found so little information about individual men. Maybe my next project will be men with breast cancer – if I can upload the photos that is!

  3. You’re exactly right, thanks for posting this. People don’t really seem to understand why I, who has metastatic breast cancer, am not singing unmitigated praises to all things pink ribbon. In some ways I feel like it’s a band aid that just covers more than it heals. I’m glad to see I’m not alone in my doubts.

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