You’re gonna hear me roar. ~Katie Perry
It was bound to happen. After all, October is breast cancer awareness month. As I drove to a dusky early morning meeting this week, the front lawn of a Main Street nursing home twinkled with 2 gigantic, glowing pink ribbons. Pink ribbon twinkle lights. And I cursed the Pink Gods, yes I did.
I tried to ignore the uncomfortable feelings. I should embrace this, I thought. I should want more than ever before to be among the sisterhood and brotherhood heralding Pink.
But I just couldn’t do it. And the more I thought about it, the more it annoyed me.
Angered me, even.
Before I go all postal, let me say that to the extent those who participate do it altruistically [and to be sure, not all do], there’s fundraising involved in the whole Pink thing. Pink socks, pink wind chimes, even pink hair extensions. So if the fundraised dollars get directed to research and patient care – and they should – I acknowledge that for the good it is.
And, of course, breast cancer awareness is good. No, it’s great. Meaning :: be aware of the risk and take steps to minimize or eliminate it where possible. Awareness empowers women to do everything they reasonably can to ensure their long-term health.
- Get mammograms,
- Do self-exams, and
- Where necessary, explore possible gene mutations that may exist in your family of origin.
But Pink? I think not. Breast cancer doesn’t come close to being Pink. And Pink for damn sure doesn’t come within a country mile of the battle we call breast cancer.
Breast cancer is black, the blackness that emerges when you feel sentenced to death. Because, yes, in those first few minutes, hours, or perhaps even longer, that diagnosis felt like a death sentence. Walk the plank, strap me in the chair, sayonara sister. And for many who aren’t as unbelievably fortunate as I’ve been, 40,000 each year in the U.S. alone, the disease we bathe in Pink each October is real and relentless. It’s not imagined. It’s not a momentary flash. It’s not pastel.
It’s their life, what’s left of it. And it’s impossibly devastating.
Breast cancer is a slash of red. Red like blood, yes, there’s a fair bit of that, too. Red reflecting pain when parts of your body are deleted as swiftly and surely as the backspace on your keyboard. Red like the emotional bruising that resurfaces. Sure, maybe it gets better and perhaps it fades over time. But there’s hard, often-grueling work getting to better, however amorphously we define that term when it comes to raw emotion. Understand this :: red never completely disappears. And if that’s uncomfortable, so be it.
While I understand that Pink October has come to symbolize awareness and may have a salutary role in fundraising, for me – for now – it’s just too cute for breast cancer. Breast cancer isn’t cute. It’s not sweet. It’s not reminiscent of bubble gum or cotton candy or Barbie.
I’m grateful for the efforts and the intentions, truly I am. I know that for the most part, those who participate – indeed many of them survivors – do so with honor and commitment. In many ways, I salute them, which is what makes this anger of mine so perplexing. Perhaps it would be easier to stay on the sidelines, ignore this month’s rosy spotlight, and choose to focus my attention elsewhere.
But, dammit, Pink’s far too gentle for a beast called breast cancer.