Why does this dreadful pink have to be the colour of breast cancer?

I just want to be treated, not turned into a ‘little princess’

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The Independent Online

Forget trying to control the big issues. Love, job, health: we all know they can be wrecked in an instant by something we never spotted coming over the horizon to cause us to tumble from some high hill of complacency. But the little issues – can’t we have some sort of control over them? I’m coming to terms with a big one – a cancer diagnosis – and learning fast why a patient is called just that. Because you have to be. But in the midst of it a little issue is looming very large that makes me very impatient indeed. And that issue is pink - the colour pink. I don’t want my world coloured pink. Yet because of my diagnosis, that is exactly what is happening.

Since I was diagnosed with breast cancer I am bombarded by pink. Pink ribbons, pink logos, pink arm bands. There’s a box of them in the hospital clinic; there’s email full of the stuff, especially now it’s October and it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. Wear It Pink screams the message I got from the charity Breast Cancer Campaign the other day in advance of 24 October, the day it has designated for wearing the sickly shade as an attempt to heighten awareness of this disease.

I would find this obsession with pink more acceptable if it were one of those delicate, subtle colours based on the flower Pink. Or the rich, reddish hue of a flamingo. No, this is the in-your-face, glow-in-the-dark pink you find in toy shops. Or more accurately in the area assigned to girls, full of My Little Pony and princess dross.

As a child I loathed the pink-is-for-girls, blue-is-for-boys nonsense, and I still can’t bear it now. Because I’m ill with something that’s ripped through a part of my body that, yes, does remind everyone I’m female, I now have to endure bombardment with a loathsome colour that should be dumped in a junkyard called gender stereotyping.

It’s bad enough when little girls are made to feel they are only little girls if they indulge in pseudo-nurturing games with dolls and are dressed in a colour that says “Silly, trivial little you”, but do grown women enduring treatments like chemotherapy have to undergo this Barbification too? Does it reveal that for all the supposed efforts made at encouraging us to be active in our treatment choices, the medical profession would really like us to not worry our little heads about anything and leave it up the people in charge?

Well, I’m sorry, I’m not prepared to be a Disney princess. I won’t be wearing anything made from that mass-manufactured pink. The only pink lady I find appealing is the one made from gin and grenadine. Now that’s a pink – a rich orangey one - that will really cheer you up, even when facing a scourge of an illness that half a million women in Britain alone are living with. And I’ll certainly raise a glass of it to the researchers committed to beating this illness. But please – scrap that hideous shade and let those of us afflicted still be grown-up women.

Catherine Pepinster is the Editor of The Tablet

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