As a nurse, Jessica Moore knew her injury should be healing more quickly. A varsity girls’ basketball coach, she’d gotten elbowed in the breast while playing the game one day, and the resulting pain kept lingering. After she visited doctors to get checked out, she found out she had metastatic breast cancer (MBC)—meaning the disease had already progressed and spread to her bones, despite her having no other symptoms. She was only 32.
Moore’s family and friends are among many who choose to embrace a different type of breast-cancer-awareness ribbon, one with stripes of green, pink, and teal. While the instantly recognizable pink ribbon—originally created by Self in 1992—is often associated with early detection and celebrating survivors, there’s no surviving or “beating” MBC. Also known as stage IV or advanced breast cancer, MBC means breast cancer has spread to other organs, typically the liver, lungs, brain, or bones. Although some people live for a long time while undergoing treatments, average life expectancy is just 24 to 36 months; Moore fought the disease for four years, passing away at age 36. The reason MBC has its own ribbon: While 30% of early-stage breast-cancer patients will eventually see their disease return as metastatic and 114 people a day die from MBC—the only kind of breast cancer that kills—only 2% to 5% of all breast-cancer funds raised go toward researching treatments for MBC. The tricolor ribbon aims to make people aware of the need for more research for MBC, its green representing spring and the triumph of life over death, pink indicating that the cancer originated in the breast, and teal representing healing and spirituality.
It’s a color combination more people are beginning to recognize thanks to Moore’s best friend, Laura Inahara, who along with other friends and family (via an organization they named Moore Fight Moore Strong), has been working tirelessly to shine light on MBC and its symbolic colors—quite literally. Later this week, more than 70 monuments around the world will be illuminated in the three colors of the MBC ribbon, in time for Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day (October 13). Those who know someone fighting the disease are encouraged to find their local Light Up MBC site, snap a picture, and post it on social media along with the hashtags #LightUPMBC #METAvivor. (Be sure to make it a public post.) “You can use Google Earth to post a screenshot of the lighting if you can’t get there in person—just don’t forget the hashtags,” says Inahara.
It’s an idea sparked by Moore, who never stopped hoping and fighting. “Prior to Jessica’s passing she said she thought it would be amazing to light a landmark for MBC as a way to raise awareness,” Inahara says. In October 2017, five months after Moore died, the group had their first landmark—the Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth, New Hampshire—lit up near her hometown. A busy mom who works in finance by day, Inahara sits down each night around 9 p.m. to work on #LightUpMBC and add to the impressive list of locations now participating, and more and more people have been offering their help, working to include more landmarks around the world. The ultimate goal: more donations, via Metavivor, going to researching treatments that could turn stage IV breast cancer into a chronic disease versus a deadly one. “[Metavivor remains] the only U.S. organization dedicated to solely awarding annual, peer-reviewed stage IV breast-cancer research grants,” Inahara explains. “That is what it will take to find a cure and stop losing more than 42,000 lives to breast cancer each year. We feel certain that we can get more research funding so no more of our friends have to die from this disease. There is often a misconception there is a cure for breast cancer, and we want to share with anyone that will listen that there is not.”