When my close friend had her biopsy which on analysis would show she had a fortunately slow growing cancerous tumour, the breast screen clinic gave her a massive amount of information in a large bright pink bag, emblazoned in large, even pinker letters with Breast Screen Canberra plus a logo. My friend was travelling by tram and rather than announce her situation to a tram carriage full of strangers, asked if they didn’t just have an ordinary shopping bag. She went home with a plastic bag laden with booklets, pamphlets and papers. One of the first things you find out when you are diagnosed is how much information people have to give you and how overwhelming it can feel. And that everything, everything is pink.
Lest anyone think otherwise, I know it is absolutely vital to come to grips with those parts of this information which apply to you. But it’s always pink. Breast Cancer Network Australia mailed me My Journey, a guide to early breast cancer. It covers everything from diagnosis through all aspects of treatment to a financial guide on the costs. It is well written and easy to follow, each section tabulated and clearly labelled. It has advice for everyone wherever they sit on the gender spectrum. And wherever you sit on that spectrum, the colour is pink.
In the accompanying leaflet, the women are wearing pink and the little female figurine symbolising the network is pink. The Jane McGrath Foundation, which funds breast care nurses including the one helping prepare me for chemotherapy, uses pink as its signature colour as does the Sydney cricket test each year in support of breast cancer funding. As a logo, pink means all these dedicated support people really do care and want you to survive.
But what is it with pink? Why choose that colour for this disease? Is pink a particularly female colour, as in blue for boys, pink for girls? Men can have breast cancer as well, rarely but they can. Yellow, of course, is taken by the Cancer Council for daffodil/wattle day in August but that still leaves effervescent green or the deep gorgeous red roses can have. What about the blue of Wahlenbergia stricta or native bluebells as they are called by us as well as those names they would have in First Nations’ languages?
Alas, no. Pink is the accepted colour and learning how to navigate your way through large amounts of medical information about breast cancer is a lifesaving necessity. Given how any cancer treatment taxes people’s strength and how brutal chemo is, pink is anyway no longer a soft, cute and cuddly colour. Associated with breast cancer, it means out and out, unconditional and unreserved strength.