Most of us recognise this delicate pink ribbon as a symbol for Breast Cancer Awareness Month celebrated in October of each year. Some of us wear it to indicate that we are breast cancer survivors and/or supporters of breast cancer research. However, very few of us know the true story behind this ribbon or realise how much it changed history.
It all started in 1991 when family-oriented Charlotte Haley from Simi Valley, California, USA began creating peach-coloured ribbons to pin to postcards that read:
Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon. Join this ‘Grass Roots Movement’. Help us wake up legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.
after her older sister and daughter were diagnosed with breast cancer in the late 80s. She was determined to raise awareness and stir government funds towards cancer research.
Single-handedly, Haley distributed the peach ribbon cards at her local grocery store parking-lot and left stacks more at the local doctors’ offices. When in 1992 the red ribbon which was created by a group of New York artists to symbolise AIDS succeeded in raising substantial funds and global awareness, she decided to mail her peach ribbons to the world’s first ladies and prominent female figures.
Her peach ribbons gained considerable media exposure until one of them landed on the desk of Self Magazine editor Alexandra Penny who recognized their potential. Penny proposed to collaborate with Haley on a breast cancer awareness campaign, however, Haley refused the proposal believing that venture will become commercial and the cause will be lost.
Penny determined not to abandon the initiative, consulted with her legal team who advised a change of colour. She chose the iconic bubble-gum pink and teamed up with the giant Estée Lauder Companie. Together they gave birth to the Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon we know today.
Even though Haley was indeed right about the commercialisation aspect of the Pink Ribbon it has nonetheless succeeded in raising global awareness and significant donations for medical research. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation that was started by Estée Lauder because of Haley’s grassroots initiative has raised more than half a billion US dollars, funding 275 researchers in 16 countries spread across 6 continents. Breast Cancer screenings have become mandatory in several nations and almost all insurance companies nowadays cover annual breast cancer check-ups including mammography and ultrasound.
We must continue Haley’s legacy by donating for breast cancer research, have our annual breast check-ups and continue to spread the word. Mega Scan Diagnostic Centre will do its part and donate 10% of its breast cancer screening revenue to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation this October. Make sure to book your examination this month!