There is, and never will be, no one more spectacular to me than my mother, Susan Marie Shevlin Slawski. When this picture was taken, my mother fell in love with me in a way only a mother could. From the moment she said hello to me in a hospital bed, she never wanted to let go. However, it was only nine years later that I was staring at her in a hospital bed, having to say goodbye.
When I was no more than a tender one year in age, my mother noticed a lump on her breast. It was not too long after that she was officially diagnosed with breast cancer. It was unimaginable to her at the time that she was about to begin a long and painful fight for her life. Time and time again did she stumble, then recover, only to then stumble again. My mother defied nearly all odds to stay alive for as long as she did.
A few years after she passed away, I started to notice people flaunting pink ribbons to showcase their support for breast cancer awareness. It didn’t take long before an explosion of pink paraphernalia was nearly unavoidable. From bracelets to tote bags to debit cards to Tic-Tac boxes – you name it, and I can almost guarantee that some marketer has designed a pink version of it in support of breast cancer awareness. At first, I bought into it. I felt that the products, and the overall messaging campaign behind them, reached out to me. I wanted to support a common cause – let’s try to bring an end to breast cancer! It wasn’t until I was older did I start to see that companies were relying on turning their products pretty and pink to encourage customers to walk through their doors. It wasn’t until I was older did I realize that when people participated in their local Susan Komen 5K’s, they only honored the women that survived, and didn’t memorialize the women that were dead. It wasn’t until now that I felt completely abandoned by the breast cancer awareness movement.
Simply put, what I plan to accomplish with this project is to critique the pink-ribbon breast cancer awareness movement. I aspire to write a book that explains what the movement did to not only neglect those women that continue to suffer from breast cancer, but to perhaps overlook the women that have lost their lives battling this wretched disease. I earnestly believe the breast cancer awareness movement always had good intentions, but I also believe over time those intentions have shifted. Pink ribbons to me represent a false narrative of what it means to have lived and have suffered through breast cancer, and watching people pass them out like candy makes me sick to my stomach.
Through this blog, I want to not only share my own thoughts and feelings, but I want to hear from advocacy leaders, artists, doctors, breast cancer survivors, and most importantly, you – whoever you are. I promise to be as transparent and truthful as I can be in the hopes that you will do the same. I ask you to please share your comments and questions with me, however you want and in whatever way you can. Maybe some of you reading this will hands-down agree with everything I have to say. Maybe some of you won’t. But I can say with confidence that this project will only be stronger through your support.
According to the CDC, with the sole exception of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in women. If you haven’t been diagnosed with breast cancer, or know someone who has, then you probably know someone who knows someone that has been diagnosed . This disease affects everyone. Therefore, this blog, and what I write, should undoubtedly affect you. Get involved, because I have a long road ahead of me with developing this book, and I want to start this beginning with you.