Stories

The dark side of pink

BY MANDY PERTZEL - Battler

It’s time to get serious…

There’s nothing pretty about pink. I recently read a post from “Love your Sister”, Samuel Johnson, famed brother of Constance – who like me has stage 4 breast cancer.

“All this pink about the place is pacifying us into believing that enough is being done about our mums falling to breast cancer. My first act as Research Australia’s Advocate of the Year is to ditch the pink.”

He is damn right! We are over the pink. Breast cancer is ugly, it’s a horrible black disease killing women every day. According to NBCF 8 women die each day in Australia from breast cancer. 2920 per year.

Since I was diagnosed in October 2010, we have lost over 16,000 women. There are nearly 60,000 people living with breast cancer today. 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer related death in women.

I have metastatic breast cancer or stage 4. There is no cure for me. I have been “fighting” my disease for 6 years. Being only 35 when I was first diagnosed, it was a huge shock. I have a husband and our children were 9 years old and 4 years old at the time. I should have been in the prime of my life, instead, I was caught up in the whirlwind of cancer. We did everything the doctors and specialists wanted me to do, surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hysterectomy, oophorectomy, hormone therapy. But to no avail. Twenty-two months after being diagnosed, we received the devastating news I was now stage 4, I was now incurable, I am going to die. I will need treatment for the rest of my life. Stage 4 statistics are dreadful. 5-year survival rates for stage IV are around 22%, it’s difficult to find statistics on stage IV survival rates and it’s nearly impossible to find 10-year survival rates. After much research I can only conclude it’s approximately 5-10%. The answer I received from one very well-known breast cancer charity/organisation was “We don’t like to put those statistics on our website as it may scare women” Maybe that’s what Australia needs to hear, real statistics, then everyone may not be so complacent about breast cancer.

Us “Lifers” (those living with metastatic breast cancer) will never “beat” cancer. Pink has become so pervasive; people actually believe breast cancer is now a curable disease. Don’t get me wrong, the Breast cancer movement, followed by the Pink Ribbon movement has saved many lives. Breast cancer awareness started in the 70’s, where a push for patient advocacy and an open dialogue began regarding women’s (and men’s) health. Something I know from my grandmother is that previous generations never talked about their bodies, what was normal, when to see a doctor and “check your boobies” well that just didn’t happen. The Pink movement really took off in the late eighties, early 90’s. According to NBCF, when they established themselves in 1994 the 5-year survival rate for bc was 74 in every 100 women, today it’s now 90 in every 100. The pink movement has single handedly changed the landscape of women’s health.
In 2016 it’s time to shift focus. We need to stop putting so much money into “awareness”. Don’t get me wrong, we need awareness, we need “check your boobies” to still be part of our dialogue but now is the time to get real and give breast cancer the shtick. 

The bottom line is we need a cure. It’s time to pull our finger out and stop women dying from this awful disease. It’s time to start focusing on research, that is the only way we are going to save our Mums, our sisters, our daughters.

Thank you to Love Your Sister for being brave enough to open the conversation about Stage IV.

Let’s keep it going.

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