“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)
I have a love hate relationship with this month.
Everywhere I look there is pink and a reminder of breast cancer awareness. I’m pretty sure after years of pink washing, we are all pretty aware of breast cancer. One in eight women or men will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. It is hard to find a person who is not touched by this monster–moms, sisters, aunts, daughters, cousins, dads, brothers, sons, uncles, friends. We know it’s out there. But how much do we really know about it? (And don’t even get me started on how very little information is out there about metastatic breast cancer!)
I can get frustrated with what seems to be the glorification of this disease, the romanticizing of it. It’s everywhere.. movies, tv, books. I’ve watched and I’ve read, and as a multiple survivor, believe me, it’s rare to find a show or a novel that accurately depicts what it’s like… or at least what it’s been like for me. Our society tries to make breast cancer beautiful. Trust me, it’s not. It’s full of scars and needles and humiliating experiences and toxic chemicals and vomit and pain and exhaustion and numerous other effects. It’s not a beautiful disease. And I know there are thousands out there who are affected by other forms of cancer… by other diseases… No disease is beautiful.
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.
But at the same time, when my boy runs out onto his football field in Knights black with his pink socks on, I am extremely proud. And I see the beautiful in this ugly disease. Thus, the love-hate relationship. Because, when the boys on his team ask him why he wears so much pink, he says, “Because my mom has had cancer five times and has breast cancer now.” And those boys don’t know what to think or do or say. It hits close to home when it’s one of your friends. And my Bear is proud to wear that pink. He’s proud to follow the example of the NFL and make others aware. He’s proud to support his mom.
I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for the people who want to make others aware. 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.
I find myself on both sides of the fence–bemoaning the pink everywhere, yet rising up to defend it when the insensitive comments come. Some of the stuff I’ve heard, y’all? Sometimes I want to look at people and say, “You do realize I’m standing right here with breast cancer, right?” *deep sighs* It’s another opportunity to show grace.
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 and leukemia. 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?
My emotions and mind and heart are always a confused jumble this time of year. I struggle.
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 “Fight Like a Girl” 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. It means people care.
And people caring?
That helps make the disease beautiful.