Pink used to be my favorite color. I associated it with little girls’ hair ribbons, cake frosting and one of my great-aunt’s pearls.
Now, the color pink, in my mind, stands as a reminder of breast cancer. And a pink ribbon is a symbol of all those wonderful friends I have lost to a horrible cancer that frankly doesn’t deserve to be represented by beautiful shades of pink.
Not so long ago, perhaps a year or so after my own battle with cancer, a close friend of mine stopped me and asked: “Did you lose one or two?”
I was confused, not understanding his question. Then it dawned on me.
“Neither, I had uterine cancer,” I said, then I tried to laugh a little at his absolute uncomfortable situation. Still, it’s no wonder that when a woman says she has cancer, there’s almost an automatic presumption that its breast cancer.
In 2011, there were more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, according to statistics provided by breastcancer.org. Those are women, and men, who had their bodies altered and their lives changed forever. Worse news, in 2011, nearly 40,000 died from breast cancer. And nearly 250,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed.
If you are a woman living in the United States, your chances are one in eight of getting breast cancer. The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older).
So, is there any good news about breast cancer cures?
Major advances in the treatment and detection of breast cancer in the last two decades have saved the lives of millions of women. Since 1990, mortality rates have decreased by 3.3 percent a year in women under 50 and by 2 percent a year in older women.
Reasons for the lives saved include advances in screenings, better drugs to treat breast cancer, a standard of care that includes biopsies of more lymph nodes and — finally — awareness among women of all ages that they are at risk.
And that’s where the pink ribbons in October come into place. October is breast cancer awareness month. It’s a time for women and men to educate themselves and make sure they have scheduled mammograms. It’s a time for asking questions.
On Sunday, Sept. 30, The Joplin Globe will publish an eight-page section that focuses on cancer research, treatment and places where those diagnosed with breast cancer can seek help. It will also include a calendar of events for the month of October and a list of ways you can support the cause.
In mid-October, our newspaper will focus on breast cancer survivors and their stories of courage.
Sadly, the last year has not been kind to some of the survivors of the area. They are no longer with us to champion this cause. We will miss them and remember them not as victims, but as fighters.
I hope for the day when I can love pink again.
Carol Stark is editor of The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to her, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email email@example.com. Follow Carol Stark on Twitter @carolstark30.