Let’s Take the Stink off Pink

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2012, the world was exploding in pink. NFL players had tackled the cause for three years, but I hadn’t watched enough football to notice. Now, it was impossible to ignore. Worse, my daughters called me at every sighting.

From pastel nail polish to ribbon-stamped eggs and hot pink tractors, the color took on a whole new meaning. And I hated it. Facing five years of surgeries, chemo, radiation, and tortuous hormone blocking meds, I hated October, too.

Personally, I did not want the reminder. Sure, that felt selfish, since the goal was to encourage mammograms and to fund research for drugs like the one that saved my life. But I could no longer admire baby pictures of my girls in pink pinafores without fearing I’d soon abandon them. Or worse, pass the illness on.

In the chat rooms of Breastcancer.org, my alias was “SickofPink.” Soon, the numbers started pouring in showing how little cash from pink products actually went to fund breast cancer causes. Now there is a name for this profitable promotion: Pink Washing. Thanks to organizations like The Breasties, we can look beyond the pretty packages and make direct donations.

But now I’m having second thoughts. Nine years out from diagnosis, I’m looking at pink in a whole new way. Every time I see the color, I’m reminded less of what I went though, and more that I’m alive.

You’d be amazed at how many times it takes a person to think about getting their breasts sandwiched in the mammo machine before they actually make an appointment and do it. Even friends and readers of A Boob’s Life confess to putting it off. Sure, only two of the nineteen chapters in my book are about breast cancer. But one has detailed descriptions of my awful experience and the other explores ways to avoid it.

Of course, it’s scary. No one wants to find out you have a time bomb in your boob. But you can’t wish it away. This is the most diagnosed kind of cancer in the world. And the fact is, of the 279,000 people estimated to be diagnosed this year, most who get early treatment will survive. Covid delayed treatment for so many that the death rate is expected to rise 10% over the next few years.

So it’s time to reframe the message. Pink is for flowers and sunsets and strawberry ice cream. The color symbolizes love and compassion. And yes, Pinktober.
What better reminder to save your life?



  1. Lupe Fernandez on October 13, 2021 at 5:20 pm

    I’m getting a colonoscopy next week. I put it off for years, especially since the quarantine. But when I found out my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, I called the gastro guy. Next week I’ll be flushing my innards. Oh fun.

    • Leslie Lehr on October 13, 2021 at 5:22 pm

      Bravo. And don’t worry, it’s not nearly as bad as they say.
      Best wishes to your mom.

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