This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re looking at the women behind the ribbon. Join the conversation on Breast Cancer Healthline — a free app for people living with breast cancer.
October is a hard month for me. So much of the cancer experience and reality has become distorted and misrepresented by the endless campaigns focused on awareness and pink paraphernalia.
Awareness as a mission was great 20 years ago, but awareness doesn’t stop Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (MBCN) recurrences and doesn’t provide the resources, policies, and support people need to function during and after treatment.
So, as you’re flooded with pink during the month of October, I urge you to stop and educate yourself before you spend your money on items and campaigns that solely focus on awareness.
At this point, the world knows about breast cancer and its deadly effects.
What they don’t know is that most of the Pinktober campaigns don’t actually fund metastatic breast cancer research — the only kind of breast cancer that kills.
It’s time for more than awareness, it’s time for action.
As a young breast cancer ‘thriver,’ I’m passionate about educating and empowering each of you with the information and tools you need to make an impact beyond awareness this October.
Keep reading for five ways you can make a difference in the breast cancer community this month and throughout the year.
1. Make a financial contribution toward research
So many campaigns during Breast Cancer Awareness Month appear to make a difference — but in reality, only donate a small portion of their sales.
Many times, those funds are only used to “spread awareness,” which can mean almost anything. Very little money actually funds research directly.
So instead of spending $20 on a pink scarf when only $1 will be donated, take that $20 and donate it directly to an organization making a direct impact.
Charity Navigator is a great tool to help evaluate nonprofits. I’ve also noted a handful of organizations below that make major contributions to breast cancer research and directly impact the lives of people with breast cancer.
- METAvivor. 100 percent of funds raised go directly to metastatic breast cancer research.
- Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). The BCRF funds promising breast cancer research and supports year-round advocacy campaigns.
- National Breast Cancer Coalition. This is a coalition of advocates, scientists, and community stakeholders focused on ending breast cancer through research, clinical studies, and advocacy efforts.
- Young Survival Coalition (YSC). The YSC provides support, resources, and community for young women diagnosed with breast cancer between the ages of 18 to 40.
- Living Beyond Breast Cancer. This organization is directly focused on education, advocacy, and wellness for those living with and beyond breast cancer.
2. Support a cancer thriver in need
You can make a direct impact this month by helping an individual person with breast cancer through financial support, meals, transportation, or supplies.
Going through treatment can be physically, mentally, and financially draining. You can help by providing meals, childcare, cleaning, transportation, or supplies.
It’s amazing how expensive cancer treatment and recovery supplies can be — and many items are not covered by insurance.
3. Education and advocacy (local or national)
There are so many ways you can make an impact without spending a dime. Using your time and your voice to advocate for change in care, research, policy, and support make a world of difference for the breast cancer community.
You can start locally by educating people and even healthcare professionals about the needs of breast cancer such as fertility, mental health, and wellness.
Want to take your education and advocacy to the next level? Write to your senator or campaign on Capitol Hill to ensure your state adopts new policies such as those requiring insurance companies to cover fertility preservation for young adults diagnosed with breast cancer.
Did you know that only a handful of states currently mandate this coverage?
Here’s two organizations that can help:
We also need your help to change the conversation related to the 113 people who will die of breast cancer each day, according to METAvivor.
The majority of Americans don’t know that metastatic breast cancer is the only kind of breast cancer that kills, and yet less than 5 percent of research funding is focused on MBC.
By educating and empowering people with these facts, we can change the conversation and impact the decisions being made about research and treatment throughout the country. Learn more and help educate others.
- Want to combine advocacy and fund research? Participate in the Novartis Kiss This 4 MBCN campaign. Post a selfie or a group photo, use the hashtag #KissThis4MBC and @Novartis will donate $15 to Metastatic Breast Cancer Network research via METAvivor. It’s so easy but makes a huge impact!
- Stage IV Stampede
- METAvivor Legislative Advocacy Campaign
- Young Survival Coalition Advocacy Opportunities
- Living Beyond Breast Cancer Young Advocate Program
- The Breast Cancer Deadline Advocacy Campaign
- Year-Round Advocacy with BCRF
4. Share your time and expertise with the cancer community
As the leader of a young women’s breast cancer group in Raleigh, North Carolina, I’m constantly looking for experts willing to share their time and expertise with our cancer thrivers.
The most requested topics are diet, fitness, holistic wellness, and sex or intimacy. Navigating life during and beyond treatment can be a struggle when you don’t have the resources you need or those resources are out of reach financially.
If you have a skill you can share, contact the local Young Survival Coalition group leader or state representative in your area to learn how you can help.
One of the greatest gifts you can give is your time.
Without your support, the nonprofits working to provide resources, support, and community to the breast cancer community would not exist.
Not only will you be making a direct impact for the breast cancer community but you will gain a great sense of fulfillment and education as you learn firsthand about the breast cancer experience.
Any of these amazing organizations would love to have you as a volunteer and can find a job that fits your skills and availability:
- Young Survival Coalition Volunteer Opportunities
- Living Beyond Breast Cancer Volunteer Opportunities
- Lacuna Loft Volunteer Opportunities
- METAvivor Volunteer Opportunities
I was 27 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to use my experience and passion to help others thrive during — and beyond — breast cancer.
It’s something we can all have a hand in, so this October (and all year), think beyond the pink and turn awareness into action.
Anna is a style enthusiast, lifestyle blogger, and breast cancer thriver. She shares her story and a message of self-love and wellness through her blog and social media inspiring women around the globe to thrive in the face of adversity with strength, self-confidence, and style.