“Cancer changes your life, often for the better. You learn what’s important, you learn to prioritize, and you learn not to waste your time. You tell people you love them. My friend Gilda Radner used to say, ‘If it wasn’t for the downside, having cancer would be the best thing and everyone would want it.’ That’s true. If it wasn’t for the downside.” (~Joel Siegel)
Yesterday was October 31st.
The last day of October.
All Hallow’s Eve.
And the final day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
My emotions and mind and heart are always a confused jumble this time of year. I look around and it’s as if the world threw up pink, and I am grateful for those who are seeking to find a cure, for those who are remembering and raising money and running races and memorializing and celebrating and grieving. I love this quest, this cause.
But I struggle, too. I struggle with those who would glorify it and romanticize it. I struggle with the trite mottoes and Facebook memes that sexualize and trivialize it. I struggle because it becomes so “in your face” that I wonder if it really gets in peoples’ hearts.
I struggle because I stand in line at Target and hear two guys behind me laughing and coarsely joking about how important it is to “save the ta-tas” for them, and I want to whip around and fiercely castigate them for just not getting it–this brutal disease that mars bodies and destroys people. I want to preach to them that it’s not about saving the ta-tas. It’s about saving the lives that belong to those ta-tas.
I struggle because breast cancer is not the only cancer out there. I have friends with lymphoma. I have friends who have survived kidney cancer and children’s cancers and Hodgkins and prostate cancer. I have friends who have lost parents and grandparents and siblings and friends to this disease. Where are their months? Who is remembering for them and walking for them and raising money for them?
But I also wear my pink ribbon proudly and I cry when friends write and say they’re wearing pink for me or dying pink stripes in their hair in my honor or wearing their “Save the Ta-Tas” tee-shirts. I value each token of remembrance and celebration.
Because while I may struggle with how things are done or brought about. It still all means something.
It means cancer is being fought.
Three years ago, my sister-in-law, Samantha, wrote this on her blog: “As we’re beginning a new month, we close out October: National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During October, it’s hard to go anywhere without seeing pink. Grocery stores, department stores, even banks carry pink products to help raise awareness and research money. The news shows have segments covering many different aspects of breast cancer, from prevention to personal stories of survival… But now it is November and we have moved on to another worthy cause. For many people, breast cancer won’t come to mind again until next year or until you or someone you loved is diagnosed with the disease. For my family, that time is now… So as the months go on, I will continue October and continue remembering every woman (and man) who has had breast cancer. I encourage you to do the same.”
Yes. October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month is ending.
But November is beginning.
A month of Thanksgiving.
I find that very fitting.