Happy Pinktober! Wow, October has only just started, and I’ve got to say, I am truly inspired by all of the impassioned dialogue I’ve seen online in the breast cancer awareness space. As I’ve been reading all the heartfelt commentary, especially on Instagram, it’s made me reflect about how I’ve been using my own voice to advance the conversation on breast cancer awareness.
I originally wanted to focus this week’s post on another pink ribbon investigation – especially with my social media campaign coming up next week, about the 7 steps you can take to become a pink ribbon investigator – but I think it’s all the more appropriate that this week I take a step back.
Truthfully, I am very self conscious about my persona online. I often ask myself – is anything I’m writing even worth a damn? I post every week and push through those feelings regardless of how inhibiting they are. But lately, especially with the arrival of breast cancer awareness month, I feel my throat just choking up with all these emotions that I’ve deeply internalized about my purpose as a writer.
Somehow through these deep and intense moments of self reflection I’ve endured, I’ve found inspiration that breaks through the crippling self doubt. That inspiration, the core of my voice as a writer and my sense of self-purpose in the breast cancer awareness space, that’s what I want to share with you all today.
That’s right, I’m getting vulnerable this week. Shit.
To start, what I’m about to say is kind of captain obvious, but I need to put this on the table. I have no factual evidence to back this up, but I’m comfortable in saying that the overwhelming majority of women that are active leaders in the breast cancer awareness space are either currently diagnosed with breast cancer or are breast cancer survivors. And errr, I’m ummm, yeah, not a breast cancer survivor.
To dive deeper on that thought, a few months ago I revealed online the results of my breast cancer genetic testing. My mom was pre-menopausal when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and so I wanted to verify if I was genetically predisposed to breast cancer. Spoiler alert: I don’t have any genetic mutations that are known to increase my chances of breast or ovarian cancer occurrence. I was obviously relieved when I received that news. However, the news made me all that more self-aware that I’m an advocate in the breast cancer space that is personally unaffected by the disease at this point.
I didn’t know how to cope with these feelings for awhile. I was confused, do I have some sort of survivor’s guilt? I’d wonder, do I have any right to even talk about breast cancer? Yeah my mom died from the disease, but so what? I continued writing my weekly posts, yet my mind was constantly haunted with doubt. I was, and continue to be, greatful for my bill of good health, but I constantly questioned whether my voice was relevant or not.
I also attacked myself a lot about my stance on criticizing the pink ribbon. I felt like anything I was saying was falling on deaf ears. Either someone had already made the argument I was trying to make, or if I made the argument I wanted to make, I got pushed into thinking that I’m a jackass for criticizing a symbol that gives people hope and has legitimately helped in creating awareness about an otherwise unspoken disease.
With all these toxic thoughts, it’s honestly quite a testament to my will power that I continued to write each week leading up to where we are now. I’ll give myself that much credit.
As I’ve assaulted myself with self-deprecating thoughts, I’ve had moments of self awareness where I’ve began to see the unique beauty of my voice. Its comes in sporadic spurts, but one moment that really struck me was this summer with my response to Nancy Stordahl’s Summer Blogging Challenge. I wrote passionately about how I emotionally handled my mom’s passing. One woman responded to my post on social media and said that as a mother herself that’s been diagnosed with breast cancer, my writing gave her hope. I was deeply touched and didn’t know how to quite express my gratitude into words.
As I’ve pondered on that more, I’ve began to become more mindful with how readers like you have responded to my posts. I’ve tried to muffle the weird insecurities I have and just be present. And being present has revealed a few reasons why my purpose as a writer is meaningful.
To start, I represent the voice of a daughter who lost her mother, the generation that is left behind after a mother dies from breast cancer. A common theme I see in the breast cancer blogging and social media community is a fear of leaving children behind if and when they die. It’s a heart wrenching fear that I watched my mom try and fail to suppress. I have developed a self narrative that is very distinct to my circumstances due to how I’ve had to rebuild my life and sense of self worth after she’s died. But for whatever reason, I don’t think people that fit into my “generation” don’t often publicly share their journey. I want that to change.
In the after math of my mom dying from breast cancer, I’ve become sensitive to how breast cancer awareness is marketed to the general public. However, because I don’t personally suffer from breast cancer, I’m in a unique position to talk about the awareness movement without being too personally biased. With that in mind, I come to my second point, which is that I am poised to provide a unique voice in analyzing and criticizing the breast cancer awareness movement. We never should take any sort of marketing phenomena for granted, otherwise we risk being duped. I don’t want to be taken as a fool, nor should you.
Lastly, there’s a connection that I’d like to bridge between the breast cancer awareness space and the general public. More specifically, as a perhaps hilariously self aware semi-hipster millennial, I’ve noticed how as a whole, the younger generations are becoming more self-conscious of the choices they’re making when deciding which products to buy and what causes to support. In that spirit, my writing highlights the importance of making conscientious and ethical decisions when supporting any cause related marketing campaign. Breast cancer awareness is a very potent example of cause related marketing, but my approach to pink ribbon campaigns can honestly be used for any similar marketing campaign really. My voice appeals to a growing sect of my generation that wants to support social good.
Man, revealing troubling thoughts out on the Internet like this is hard. Just writing these words is hard. I want to put on a persona that I have everything together, to trick you all as readers, hell to trick myself, but this week I can’t. And I don’t want to hide anymore from the barriers that hold me back from my utmost potential. So here I am, take it or leave it, because I’m only just getting started.