We spoke with our past Real Women Real Stories podcast guests, who are also breast cancer survivors, and asked them their feelings about October.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month means many different things to many different people.
Sonya Keshwani, Founder & Survivor, StyleEsteem Wardrobe, wants women to remember that their diagnosis isn’t who they are. She also wants people to focus not only on early detection but on Stage IV breast cancer too.
“During breast cancer awareness month we must have conversations about self-exams and early detection, while also supporting organizations that are committed to finding a cure for Stage IV breast cancer – the only breast cancer that kills. It is also a time to remind each other that we are so much more than our diagnosis and hair loss. Breast cancer doesn’t define us – it simply brings out the power and courage we didn’t know were there before.”
Marquina Iliev-Piselli, Author of ‘TOUGH: Women Who Survived Cancer’ and Founder of ShareTriumph.com understands, like many survivors, that it’s a complicated month. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth acknowledging.
“Breast Cancer Awareness month is complicated. As I see the pinkwashing of breast cancer and worry about how the money is spent, I find myself turning inward. I’m reminded of my diagnosis because I was diagnosed on 10/09/2015. I push worries about recurrence away and reflect on my life. I give thanks for the many friends I’ve made and the opportunities I’ve had. I also take a moment to say ‘thank you’ to my body. It is scarred and there is still pain — I used to be angry with my body for getting cancer — but I’m thankful that my body kept me alive.”
The month also brings a lot of mixed emotions for many women, like AnaOno founder, Dana Donofree, who also acknowledges there is still a lot of work to be done.
“This is my 10th Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to say I have evolved does not feel complex enough. I have gone from celebrating, to hating, to detesting, to mourning, to understanding, to prideful. All of these feelings are an honor, because I know hundreds of thousands of people have not had the chance to feel them all, and that is where the sadness seeps in because we still have SO MUCH more work to do to treat our breast cancer BETTER, and give that chance to hundreds of thousands of us to come.”
AnnMarie Giannino, founder of Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer, appreciates the camaraderie that the month represents, but wants to caution people about pink washing.
“I am all for the sisterhood/brotherhood- the bonding is what we need to get through this and being proud of yourself. I am not for selling this disease to make a buck and there is a difference and there is harm if you do not watch it. I ask that before you buy anything think about it and maybe find another way to show support and love because most pink crap doesn’t cure anything right? Not everything goes to real research you have to know what you are buying. Research not ribbons – this coming from someone with a pink ribbon tattoo.”
October can serve as a reminder for women to know their bodies. Shaney Jo Darden, founder of Keep A Breast, actually launched a new app to help women with just that.
“Early detection is the key, and knowing what is ‘normal’ for your body is an integral part of that. We developed the NEW Keep A Breast App to do just that: help young people all over the world to develop a healthy life-long relationship with their bodies.”
Sylvia Dunnavant Hines, founder of Celebrating Life sums it up so well:
“It doesn’t matter whether you have cancer, cancer never has to have you!”