More than two decades ago, Charlotte Haley, as she battled breast cancer decided to create a peach-coloured ribbon to raise awareness about the disease.
It was a labour of love for the 68-year-old Harvey, whose grandmother, daughter and sister also had breast cancer. So she began to make the peach ribbons by hand in her home.
She distributed thousands of ribbons at supermarkets with cards that read: “The National Cancer Institute’s annual budget is $1.8 billion, only five per cent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”
As the word spread, executives from Estée Lauder and Self Magazine asked Haley for permission to use her ribbon.
Haley refused, saying the companies were too commercial. The magazine consulted its lawyers and was advised to come up with another colour. It chose pink.
Still, it was Charlotte Haley’s original idea. And she lived long enough to see the ribbon become recognized as the worldwide symbol for breast cancer.
The California woman lived until age 91, dying in February 2014.
The pink ribbon now symbolizes hope for a cure and support for those coping with breast cancer.
It is going to be hard to miss the pink ribbon, and all things pink across Barbados throughout this month as this country joins international celebrations to observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
And there’s good reason for us all to join in.
Regrettably, breast cancer remains the most common cause of death from cancer among Barbadian women.
Breast cancer champion and medical co-ordinator of the Barbados Cancer Society’s Breast Screening Programme, Dr Shirley Hanoman Jhagroo, said this week that the priority remains to prevent premature deaths by early detection.
Noting that just over 107,000 patients have benefitted from the clinic’s services up to June this year, Dr Hanoman-Jhagaroo stressed there can be no letting up on the message
She said: “Patients diagnosed in stage 0 and 1 have almost 99 per cent survival compared with those diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.
“All statistics show that with early detection lives are being saved.
“We still do not know the cause of breast cancer. We still do not have an exact treatment.
“We do not have a cure, but our vision at this point in time is to save as many lives as we can by early detection.”
And we have many other champions among us.
Stateswoman Dame Billie Miller, theatre icon Merle Niles, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw and scores of other Barbadian women have stared cancer in the face and won.
For decades a cancer diagnosis has not carried a certain death sentence.
But ignorance and silence can.
The reality is too many of us have been touched by breast cancer. We all have mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, friends, coworkers who have battled with this disease.
And that’s why breast cancer awareness must start with us, the people who love them.
Beyond wearing pink, and enjoying the Walk for Cure with friends and family this Sunday — think early detection, think prevention.
End the silence.
We urge you, regardless of gender, talk your family, friends and coworkers about breast cancer.
While there are some risk factors that may be out of our hands, such as family history, there are steps women can take to reduce their risk.
Experts suggest staying physically active, with vigorous walking, skipping, swimming. Just moving wards off cancer cells.
Women can limit alcohol use, eat a well-balanced diet and be deliberate about doing self-breast examinations and scheduling a mammogram.
But we all can do more, each of us, and not just in the month of October in the fight against breast cancer.
For the next four weeks, we urge you to show your support and simply be present to those already living with breast cancer.
No doubt we all long for that day when breast cancer will be a distant memory, something suffered and endured by past generations.
Until then, let’s fight back and don pink. This is not seeing a scourge through the rose-coloured glasses of gimmickry.
For now, the most effective way to fight breast cancer is to fight stigma, ignorance and neglect among our women, and press on for a cure.