I’ve seen a lot of posts in my Facebook feed this month about “pinkwashing” and why Breast Cancer Awareness month is a farce. I take the time to read all of them because I don’t want to be one of those people who just buries my head in sand and ignores anyone who disagrees with me. But after doing a 10 mile training walk on the treadmill today, I felt like I couldn’t be quiet anymore about why *I* will be doing the Avon 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer next week.
The first time that I signed up for the walk, I did it for very simple reasons. Both of my grandmothers had breast cancer. I had many friends, neighbors, and colleagues who fought breast cancer along with an aunt and a cousin. I felt so impacted by the sheer volume of people around me who had faced it. I wanted to do something to honor all of them and it seemed like the money and awareness that I could raise would be a way of doing that.
That first walk changed everything.
In the course of my fundraising, people came out of the woodwork telling me their stories. A neighbor who was only my age and had undergone a double mastectomy and I didn’t even know it. A friend whose mother died of breast cancer the year before. It seemed like by putting it out there that I was doing the walk, people felt more comfortable talking to me about breast cancer. Many of them thanked me for doing it and asked me to carry their names or the names of their loved ones during my walk, and I did.
During the walk itself, I saw so many survivors. I was humbled to see women who were just completing chemo walking faster than I was. I learned that my teammates were all walking for very personal reasons, too. Talking to Shawn and knowing why he wears the hat that he wears reminds me at every mile how important it is to him. Seeing Vanessa‘s mom, a breast cancer survivor herself, waiting and waving at the Finish Line brought the whole walk into perspective.
And then there’s the money.
A lot is said about how much of the “funds” raised by pink campaigns actually goes to research and the people who need it. I don’t doubt for one minute that many companies use it mainly for PR, and I hate that the NFL gives so little compared to what it looks like they are giving. Attending the opening and closing ceremonies of the Avon Walk as well as their website tells me exactly where that money is going. Hearing people from God’s Love We Deliver, You Can Thrive!, and the NYU Cancer Center talk about how they are using the money they are getting makes me wish I had raised even more.
It’s Not Just Me
For every story out there about someone who hates Breast Cancer Walks, there is another story about someone who is inspired by them. Today I came across this post Why I Quit the Avon Walk, and it was NOT at all what I expected. It’s the story of Michelle Ward and how important the walk was to her 6 months after chemo. The post is from 2012 and in it she vows to continue doing the walk each year. I skimmed through her site to see if she is walking this year. I found 2 things: Michelle’s fundraising page for this year (having raised over $7K so far and walking again with her mom, BFF, and another friend) and a blog post by Michelle from October 7 of this year saying that the breast cancer has reoccurred (My Begrudging Life Lessons).
I hope somehow in that sea of people in New York this weekend that I find Team Awesome and can tell them that I read about Michelle and am praying for her. She posted “I personally feel strong when I share what I’m going through and get messages of kindness and support back.” I intend to find any way that I can to let her know that she has the support of a totally unknown blogger in Indiana.
I probably haven’t changed your mind about whether you will walk a walk like this yourself or even give money to mine. But I hope that I have at least shared a different perspective from what you are seeing on social media. My heart breaks for the women who feel like “pink” and “October” are a slap in the face for what they have been through. I hope that they will understand that the rest of us are just trying to do what we can in the ways that we know how to give our time and money to a cause we ALL believe in.