Last week a co-worker brought a bag of chips to lunch. I noticed a different color on the package and when I looked I saw the color was pink. The package said the company would donate 25 cents to a national breast cancer organization for each proof of purchase returned to the chip manufacturer.
October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month this is not the only pink thing I’ve seen. A cell phone company is selling pink phones. A candy company made a pink version of its popular candy-coated chocolates. There are cans of soup with pink and white labels instead of their normal red and white ones.
Realize it was not always this way. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1980. Back then there was no special month for breast cancer; no things for the cure; no companies with special merchandise. Pink was just a color and breast cancer, along with cancer in general, just wasn’t talked about.
At the Connect the Dots training C3 held last May just before the One Voice Against Cancer Lobby Day, Jane Reese-Colburne, one of the founders of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, told us about the early days. Back then NBCC consisted of a few women sitting around a dining room table. More than likely this is the same with other high-profile breast cancer groups.
Those affected by breast cancer realized they could do much more collectively than individually so people started to band together to have greater impact. Groups which look so large and successful started small and did what they could with what they had. The highly visible organizations and movements of today were once little more than an idea in someone’s head.
It is easy to feel jealous and even angry when it seems everyone talks about breast cancer yet seem so silent about colon and rectal cancer. It is discouraging when most people know what a pink ribbon means while you have to explain your Blue Star pin every time you wear it. As you deal with these thoughts and feelings remember that our enemy is not pink ribbons but cancer.
Rome was not built in a day. This means those of us associated with C3, along with the colorectal cancer community in general, need to remember it takes time to build a strong and healthy movement able to go the distance.
To get there we need the infrastructure in place to support activities in the field. We need a base of people willing to do what it takes to get the awareness we want, whether that be of the need to be screened or for public policy decisions favorable to our agenda. We need to set goals, plan our work, and work our plan. We need to celebrate our successes and learn from our failures.
Awareness without action has no impact. By focusing on action we get the most bang for the buck and will have the awareness of colon and rectal cancer we so desire. People will see our deeds and the sea of Blue Stars will follow soon enough.