Most of us know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, but have you ever wondered how the Pink Ribbon came about? It turns out that ribbons have been used to symbolise remembrance in folklore and song since the 1700s, and were (relatively!) recently rejuvenated by the pop group Dawn with the classic
“Tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree” in 1973. Yellow ribbons were tied around trees during the Iranian hostage crisis, and red ribbons began to appear at the end of the 1980s to raise awareness for HIV and Aids awareness. The pink ribbon was first seen in 1991 when the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation gave out pink ribbons to every participant in its New York City race, and shortly afterwards Estee Lauder and Self Magazine began to support the cause – the rest is history.
So the pink ribbon has become synonymous with breast cancer awareness. The global awareness that has been raised through the pink ribbon has helped increase early detection of breast cancer, made women more aware of the importance of doing regular breast self-examinations, and increased funds directed toward finding a cure.
The pink ribbon signifies the aspiration for the health, vitality and empowerment of women. And why the colour pink? Because pink symbolises femininity, romance, compassion, tenderness, nurturing and health. But most importantly perhaps, in colour psychology it symbolises hope ……. Hope that we will be well, hope that they will find a cure.
Hope is the belief that a positive outcome lies ahead. This belief can be difficult to hold onto in the face of cancer. Knowing how to create a sense of hope in life can help people face cancer survivorship with strength and confidence. Years ago when I ran a support group in a hospital for people fighting cancer, I asked the group what they were grateful for, and what they hoped for. I recall feeling anxious – how could I ask these people about gratitude and hope as they endured chemo and faced sickness. I was amazed by their courage, and insight and the small yet so important things they were grateful for: the sunshine, the visit from their family, seeing their friends …. and the hope that that treatment would be successful and that the cancer would go into remission, or that they would live to see their child grow up.
For those with cancer, there can also be a new set of concerns about what life will be like after treatment. There may be changes in one’s body, with implications as to how we view ourselves and our self-esteem, on our sexuality, and how we can talk to partners about intimacy or fears …. Deciding what role hope will play as changes and uncertainties are managed will help us find ongoing sources of strength and positive thinking. Holding onto hope and being in denial is not the same thing. Denial means that one is avoiding reality and refusing to admit the truth. Hope is realistic. It is being honest with oneself about the current situation while still looking forward to positive outcomes in the future.
There is no right or wrong path to finding hope. Hope comes easier for some people, others struggle, but there will be times when bad news or disappointing results will challenge everyone. How can we hold onto hope when faced with such adversity?
- Talk. To family, friends, co-workers. Try and find a face-to-face or online support group. Sharing one’s story, and learning about the challenges and joys others experience in their survivorship, can be an important source of hope.
- Like my support group members, some find hope by looking forward to planned events, like a child’s graduation from high school, a wedding or another type of gathering with friends and loved ones. Every day try and find at least one thing to be grateful for.
- Read positive stories of cancer survivors. Participate in finding a cure – raise money, raise awareness – be alive and changing the world
- And it almost goes without saying that if someone has a religious or spiritual belief embrace it and find hope and peace.
So this month let’s think pink. Let’s support our sisters, friends, and mothers fighting this disease. Let’s raise awareness and move towards finding a cure. Let’s all have hope.