March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. That means we need to make the most of these four weeks to raise some money for research, and raise awareness about the disease and the 2.5 million people in the world currently living with it. What’s the best way to do that? I know! A ribbon! All the cool diseases have one these days.
Some are easy to remember. Pink is breast cancer. Blue is prostate cancer. Red is AIDS. Yellow is a symbol of support for deployed military personnel. Autism’s ribbon is a beautiful puzzle of primary colors. But what shade represents MS? I remember when I was first diagnosed, the ribbon was shimmering and multifaceted to represent the many ways MS can impact patients. But today, the color is a garish orange. There’s just one problem. That also happens to be the color for:
- Agent Orange
- Cultural Diversity
- Kidney Cancer
- Malnutrition Awareness
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome
- Self Injury AwarenessDay
- Sensory Processing Disorder
- Spinal Cancer
- Prader-Willi Syndrome
Toward the end of the movie The Incredibles, there’s a great scene in which bystanders are trying to remember where they’ve seen Syndrome before. He’s actually the villain of this clever little movie, and is only pretending to be the hero to grab glory for himself. (Here’s the clip if you’d like to enjoy the moment.)
Because we share a ribbon color with so many other conditions, we’re a bit like Syndrome. No one quite knows who we are or what we stand for.
The average person can see around 1 million colors, so it seems pointless to make several dozen conditions share one shade. How can we possibly stand out? My doctor initially thought I had lupus before I was diagnosed with MS, and I do deal with a bit of a sensory processing issue these days, but they aren’t the things I want to raise awareness of—MS is.
We need to find a more unique color, one that will get people’s attention and start a conversation. To that end, I humbly submit three colors on which no other medical condition seems to have called dibs:
This would be my first choice. The color is equally popular among fashion designers and fishing enthusiasts, so it already has a wide fan base. Plus, according to Susan Zhao “The eye is most sensitive to green light (550 nm) because green stimulates two of the three kinds of cones, L and M, almost equally.” That means it’ll be easy to see for most people, no matter what other shades you are wearing. The only group currently using chartreuse is The Mama Bear Effect, which fights child sexual abuse. I don’t know about you, but I that’s a cause worth sharing airtime with.
Another viable option is this deep purple hue. There are several shades currently in use, but this one looks wide open at the moment. Also known by the more lovely French word aubergine, this color works well with a number of palettes. But wait! There’s more. According to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, it is actually one of the few colors that looks good on everyone, so that should make it easier to get folks to wear it.
My third option also looks to be unclaimed for the moment. Cyan—one of the primary subtractive colors—is a cool, comforting hue that is relaxing and easy on the eyes. It’s the blue shade we associate with tropical beach water lapping calmly over pristine sand. Hence, it is a choice for surgical scrubs and a popular color for master bedrooms. I don’t know about you, but life with MS can be stressful, to say the least, so why not pick a ribbon that might help things be a little more Zen overall?
Wear the ribbon proudly
This article has been written mostly in jest. My goal has been to entertain you and to share some fun facts, but the truth of the matter is this: MS respects no color. It strikes people of all ethnicities; people with every eye and hair color imaginable can be diagnosed with this stupid disease. So, while wearing a ribbon does go a long way, speaking up does even more heavy lifting when it comes to awareness.
Whether we get our own color or stay with the orange, wear the ribbon proudly, and when folks ask why you’re wearing it, tell them. Explain to them what MS is, how it impacts your life, what your hopes and dreams are for a cure—inform them about the many discoveries doctors and researchers are finding every day.
Really, the only way we raise awareness is by making them truly aware of us.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.