What’s Your Color?

I promised myself I wouldn’t go there this year, yet here I am. I told myself I have to immerse myself in my own battle and not try to fight any others. Yet, here I am. I know I’m too tired to really fight effectively, but I will try. Someone has to.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Despite the brilliant reds, oranges, yellows and tans of the leaves and the gorgeous sunsets, all I see is pink. Bubble gum, Pepto-Bismol pink. The Ultimate Bengal Fan commented the other day that orange and pink should not be worn together, and this is the kid who would wear stripes and plaids.

It seems that cancer has been boiled down to a color. What color is your cancer? Are you pink, blue, teal, yellow, purple, green, white or some combination thereof. Are you saving the ta-tas or some other body part? A fellow teal sister on a Facebook group I’m a part of commented on the tasteless “Go Braless” campaign to promote breast cancer awareness. She thought we should go commando to bring awareness to gynecologic cancers. Actually, guys could join in with this as well. Prostate and testicular cancer are below the belt as well.

I think the people who come up with these “campaigns” mean well, but they don’t think things through. When you’re fighting for your life, you aren’t thinking pink, teal, purple or any other color. You’re trying to figure out when you can take your next anti-nausea pill. You’re trying to decide how you can hide the overwhelming fatigue from your family so they don’t worry. Some days you wonder how you’re going to haul your butt out of bed to go to the bathroom, then you hear some perky AM news host talk about how they’re painting the town pink with bras. Hey, I would gladly go braless, but as a former boss of mine used to say “You’ll take your eye out ” (I’m rather well endowed).

I’m tired of hearing about moms who have breast cancer and take care of their families. Lots of people with cancer go through therapy and take care of their families and never receive one bit of recognition. I certainly don’t blog about my journey for the recognition. Truth is that the vast majority of cancer patients deal with their families and some have to work to keep their insurance or a roof over their head. Those are the real heroes. The ones that go through treatment and keep life going. They should get a gold crown. They deserve the recognition. Not that the mom with breast cancer doesn’t – she does. She’s doing the toughest job imaginable while fighting cancer. She just shouldn’t be singled out when there are so many others who do the exact same thing.

Cancer isn’t a color. It’s a wretched disease that destroys your body, mind and spirit and leaves families shattered. If you’re lucky, like I am, you have an incredible support system that holds you close when you can’t do it on your own. I have a God who is immensely powerful to save and holds me close. I have friends who will gladly stay with my children so I can get my infusions. Yesterday I discovered that I am in need of fluids on the weeks I don’t get chemo. This means a 90 minute infusion of saline, along with some extra steroid and anti-nausea meds. My quick 45 minute trip has turned into a “3 hour tour.” Fortunately, the 3 hours I spend affords me a few days of actually feeling good before I descend back into the depths of feeling lousy.

It just seems wrong to try to limit cancer to a color. It’s as if tying a deadly disease to a color makes it less threatening. How can something pink or blue or yellow take lives every day? I guess it’s like a tiger in the wild. They are majestic to look at, but I certainly don’t want to meet one up close.

Fortunately, we’re about halfway through the “pink month.” Then we can get on with life again. Until then, I will politely decline when asked if I want to give to a another “pink ribbon” charity. I will explain that pink doesn’t represent all women’s cancers. And I will laugh at the lack of color coordination on the part of the NFL. Pink shoes with football uniforms just doesn’t do it for me. And don’t even get me started on how much of what’s raised actually goes to patients. That’s for another rant on another day.

The color of cancer is reflected in the eyes of every patient, male or female. It’s reflected in the color of their skin since cancer is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives. Cancer is the plague of the 21st century. The only color I want associated with it is whatever color the cure is. Then, I will proudly wear the color of cancer. The color that caused it’s demise.

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Pink is the New Black

Last night, I watched the Cleveland/Buffalo game with my husband.  The first thing John noticed was not the score, which surprised me since the Browns were losing at the time.  The first thing he noticed was the pink.  Pink was everywhere.  Pink ref towels, pink socks, pink mouth guards, pink goal posts, pink yard markers, pink ribbons on the field.  It was a pink lovers paradise.   John said, “Boy they’ve got a great lobby.”  Yes, they do, and they’re not afraid to use it.

Let me say upfront that I am NOT anti-pink.  I know several people who have had to fight the Beast called breast cancer.  Some of these women were the ones who prayed most fervently for me.  One in particular continues to walk along side of me as I struggle with this season called remission.  I lost a friend to breast cancer.  It’s an ugly, disfiguring, vile and evil disease that must be eradicated from the Earth.  That being said, so do all the rest of the cancers.  What I am is anti “my cancer is worse than your cancer.”

In the past, I’ve always thought it was cool that the NFL and MLB would sport pink.  These traditionally male sports were honoring wives, sisters, aunts, lovers and friends by wearing pink during Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Last year, I looked at it a bit different.  After I came home from my hysterectomy and was waiting to have my port inserted, I watched a game and thought, “Seriously?”  Later that week my friend Cathy made her first visit to me as my unofficial Chemo Coach and I asked her what she thought about all the pink.  After reflecting, she said that initially it made her feel good, but as time wore on she started to feel like a commodity.

Watching the game last night, a couple of things popped into my head.  First was “Why pink?”  Granted men DO get breast cancer, albeit a relatively low percentage.  So if the “wearing o’ the pink” brings awareness to male breast cancer, it’s a great thing.  I’ve been prayed over on Facebook by a woman who lost her husband/soul mate to breast cancer.  If the NFL would use the platform to raise awareness for that, I’d say paint the stadium pink.  But, sadly, that’s not the point.  The point is to support women with breast cancer.

My second thought was “Why not blue?”  Blue represents prostate and testicular cancer and while prostate tends to be a slow growing cancer, testicular cancer is not.  These big burly men could all develop prostate or testicular cancer.  Shouldn’t they go blue to get their fans to get checked?  Maybe no one has brought this up to the NFL.  Or maybe big, burly men don’t want to deal with what might happen to them.  Who knows?  I may have to Google or Bing that.

My third thought had to do with John’s observation about having a great lobby.  Breast cancer has an awesome lobby.  Two of my hometown’s big corporations, P&G  and Kroger, scream pink.  P&G makes donations based on coupons redeemed and Kroger spotlights employees who have fought the beast and won (female employees only, I’ve noted).  Campbell’s has pink cans.  Yoplait has their pink lids.  The other night my son was eating Yoplait and asked, “Where are the teal lids?”  I had to suppress a laugh.  I explained that there were no teal lids and I didn’t anticipate there ever being teal lids.  “Why?” he asked.  I simply told him, “Not enough women get my kind of cancer.”  His reply, “That’s stupid.  Cancer is cancer and it all kills people.”  Ah, the wisdom of a 10 year old who fears the Beast will take his Momma.  But I recognize that it took Susan Komen’s sister and Dr. Love going to Avon to get the ball rolling.  Prior to that, you pretty much had a “Save the Ta-ta’s” sticker and that was about it.

John’s uncle has been battling muscle and lung cancer for a few years.  He is one of the most humble and Godly men I know.  If anyone should have a ribbon day, he should.  John’s dad died from lung cancer.  No ribbon for that.  My grandma died of colon cancer.  Where’s her ribbon month?  Thank goodness for Katie Couric or that cancer would still be in the dark.  My niece battled thyroid cancer last year.  No ribbon there either.  While I am thrilled that teal is getting recognized, I realize there are some cancers that are still avoided completely like pancreatic and liver cancer.  Talk about needing a lobby!

I do plan on wearing my pink T-shirt this month for Cathy, Joules, Ronnie, Paula, Lori, Charlene and all the other women I know who’ve battled breast cancer.  The back of my shirt says “It’s not a color, it’s an attitude.”  Now that’s something I can get behind.  Rather than painting America pink, maybe we need to get into the mindset that all cancer is bad and we need to find a way to cure them allnot just the one with the who has the best PR machine.

Actually, I’ve packed away most of my teal stuff from last month.  I am wearing my “Power is Teal” T-shirt today, but not to make a statement.  It’s actually very comfy and it was on the top of my stack in the drawer.  I could have just as easily pulled my “All-American Mom” which is my shirt to promote International Adoption or my “Homeschool Mom, Just Add Coffee” shirt.  Tomorrow I will wear my “Flight Crew” shirt from VBS last summer.  Not because I am trying to make a statement, but because both my boys have games tomorrow and both have blue and white uniforms.  My T is blue and white so I am supporting my kids.  Granted the message is a bonus, but it’s not the reason why I’m choosing that shirt.  Not every color has to stand for something.

Pink, like teal, blue, yellow, purple, red and green, is just a color.  I realize when they take the shape of a ribbon, they represent something visceral.  Colors are a great way to grab attention and bring awareness.  God put seven distinct colors in the rainbow, not two or three.  All the colors are necessary to make the rainbow complete.  It will take all the ribbons coming together to beat the Beast.  Who’s with me?