Has Pink October lost the plot?


Yes, says Sabina-Leah Fernandez, in this letter to her mother who died of cancer.


Breast Cancer - Caption My mum, 1989. The last photo she took before she lost her hair.


My mum, 1989. The last photo she took before she lost her hair.

Dear Mum, 

It’s been a while since I last wrote. How’s the after-life going? Miss you lots. Yes I’m good, eating well, promise. Anyway Mum… I need to vent. I’m so glad this month is coming to an end.

It’s October and Breast Cancer Awareness month. Yeah they started it some years after you died Mum. Great idea right? But somewhere aong the way… the message got lost I think.

The whole month, everywhere I turn someone is selling pink this and pink that. They say it’s to raise money for a cure for cancer – but they never tell you the mechanics of how it’s donated, and what the money goes to. Does the money go to pharmaceutical companies? Do those dudes really need more money? Every brand plasters a product in pink to “raise breast cancer awareness”. But it seems more like a convenient marketing gimmick to me. And to exploit a disease that has caused so many people so much pain to make a profit strikes me as…. unjust. They insist that apart from finding a cure the pink product parade is to “raise awareness.” Who in the first world – where these products are sold – doesn’t know about breast cancer? I’d have thought it would be very difficult to find one person who hasn’t had their lives forever changed by a mum, aunt, cousin, sister or friend with this disease.

 Breast cancer. Caption When this pic was taken Mum was about the same age I am now.

When this pic was taken Mum was about the same age I am now.

Obviously… this strikes a nerve Mum. I was only seven when you found that lump. I watched through large, innocent eyes as radiation and chemo robbed you of your glow. The “cure” of the time was chemo. Chemo. It should be a four-letter word. I watched as it turned you, my beautiful, dynamic, light-up-a-room mother into a bald, paper-coloured shell of a person. That’s not a cure. It was barely even treatment. It was a long slow death sentence, worse than the illness itself.

It made me so suspicious of pills, treatments and “cures”. It made me wince silently whenever I hear about “ cancer survivors”. How come nobody celebrates the people who didn’t make it? Nobody claps for the ones who fought til the bitter end and finally found the courage to let go. Watching you die of cancer Mum, made me want prevention. Not cure. Not a band-aid.

I just don’t get it Mum. If all this money is indeed going towards “a cure” why do I not hear anything about it? And then there’s Angelina Jolie, making pre-emptive strikes on two cancer-free boobs and it’s called “brave”? I feel like somewhere along the way we’ve lost focus. 

I wish there was a month dedicated to Breast Cancer Prevention. One that addressed smoking, diet, stress management. One that taught us how to keep our hormones in balance naturally and keep our immune system healthy enough to fight cancer cells from the get-go. I would buy a product that supported conclusive research into the long-term effects of pesticides, meat, dairy, the pill, hormonal replacement therapy, and cell phone radiation. I would donate to a fund that researched lifestyle habits versus genetics.

Don’t tell me how to CURE cancer, tell me how to NEVER get cancer! That’s what I want. As a 31-year-old woman with a family history, I want to sleep well in the knowledge that I will never have to walk down that frightening road. Ever. By placing emphasis on cure and lauding Angelina’s pre-emptive mastectomy as “brave”, the medical community seems to be telling me my fate is set. As though I might as well chop off my tatas and cross fingers for better chemo because those are the only two options. But that can’t be true. I refuse to be a powerless products of my DNA. I. Re. Fuse.

You see Mum, I don’t want to be a cancer survivor. I want to be completely and utterly cancer-free. Give me a product that will do that and I’ll buy it. Even if it isn’t pink.

 Breast Cancer. Caption when there were five of us. (That's me, bottom right)

When there were five of us. (That’s me, bottom right)

And since that product doesnt exist I’ll settle for eating mindfully, exercising, sleeping well, managing stress and living the life that gives me joy every single moment I have. And, while I’m at it, I’ll keep my boobs too.


Love you Mum.

Miss you every day.





breast cancer - writer thumbnail.Sabina-Leah Fernandez (www.sabinafernandez.com) is a Singaporean editor-turned-yoga teacher now living in Sri Lanka. Read more of her writing on her blog www.ahippieinheels.com








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