Before 2012, I never really cared for the color pink. It was just another color in the crayon box, a reminder of springtime or a piece of candy; I preferred blue and shades of yellow. But when I was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer at the age of 37, my world suddenly became engulfed in pink. Well-wishers sent pink bracelets, support groups and nonprofits gave out pink hats and scarves, and cancer centers packaged cancer information in pink binders and tote bags.

I had read about so-called pinkwashing and the controversy surrounding the appearance of pink ribbons on everything from pens and socks to cereal boxes, with little of the profit going to actual patients or cancer research. But for me, pink became something tangible I could put to this invisible thing that was ravaging my body. Hearing the doctors talk about cancer cells and tumors and the rate of growth was overwhelming. How could I fight what I could not see? Coloring it pink made it easier for me to imagine.

But the color pink did something else: it gave me a touchstone to other patients and survivors. People don’t realize how isolating it is to be so ill, how you can be constantly surrounded by people but feel so alone. When I see a pink ribbon on a shirt, on a license plate, on a car magnet, or on a hat I can say, yes, that person has felt it. They have experienced it, watched someone they love suffer, supported someone into survivorship. To me it says, we’re all in this together.

I don’t believe the pink ribbon needs to be on every water bottle and ballpoint pen but we do need awareness around the fact that breast cancer is still affecting women of all ages. A few facts:

• More than 280,000 women in the U.S. are estimated to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2021.

• In the U.S., breast cancer deaths among women are the highest of any other cancer besides lung cancer.

• Breast cancer has the highest mortality rate of any cancer for women between the ages of 20 and 59.

• Among women under 45, black women have a higher incidence of breast cancer than white women, and black women are more likely to present with triple negative and inflammatory breast cancer, two aggressive types of breast cancer with higher mortality rates than other subtypes.

We need awareness that the fight is still on, that women of all ages and all races are still dying from breast cancer. It is not an either/or scenario. You can still wear pink and donate to breast cancer research.

I still prefer the color blue, but wearing my pink bracelet reminds me to be grateful and to help those still in the fight. A pink ribbon is a reminder of all us out there — fighting, recovering, persevering. So this month, I will wear my pink shirt from the breast cancer walk I did with my community and I will wear my pink ribbon given to me by another survivor — a total stranger — at an airport. I will wear those things proudly and think about the women and men still fighting for their lives.

Laura Holmes Haddad lives in West Tisbury and is the author of the book This Is Cancer.