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?

Reflections

Yesterday I celebrated my 49th birthday.  There was a time when I would cringe at the thought of being 49, despite the fact that I have a couple of friends who have crossed over the half century mark.  As with many birthdays, I reflected on the past year.  What a ride it’s been!  Last year I didn’t enjoy my birthday.  I’d just found out about the mass on my ovary and, despite being 7 weeks from confirmed diagnosis, I knew I had ovarian cancer.  I was worried and obsessing over everything.  I analyzed every pain and twitch.  I poured over research and websites.  I stopped living and started planning for what I thought would be the end of things.  The picture above shows me on my birthday last year.  My husband told me that I looked sick last year.  He said I look “healthy and vibrant” this year.  Good thing, since that’s how I feel.

I am amazed at what I’ve been through in the past year and have managed to not only survive, but thrive!  My life is a testimony to what God can do when you reach the end of your rope and have only Him to hang onto.  It’s a living example of what it means to be surrounded by people (who are too innumerable to mention) who refuse to allow you to give up even when you want to give up yourself.

In the last year I have learned that I can survive major surgery, a life threatening blood clot, chemotherapy, self injections of blood thinners, more blood tests that I thought were possible, a port insertion, too many trips to doctors to count and more scans than a body should have to endure while homeschooling two boys, keeping the house of a semblance of a schedule and continuing to write.  I have learned that chemo is a double edged sword.  While it saves your life, it takes your memory.  It kills the cancer and numbs your hands and feet.  And I will find out today just how much damage it did to my eyes (I have floaters which appeared when chemo started and are getting worse).  I have done all this while wrestling with the effects of instant menopause without the benefit of being able to have any hormones to help with the adjustment.

I am a warrior in teal.  I want to make teal as prominent as pink.  I posted on FB that since it’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, I was going to try to wear teal every day (today, my only teal is my wrist band, all my teal clothes are in the wash).  I wear it for those who walked before me and paved the way and for those who will inevitably come behind me.  I wear it for my oncologist, his incredible staff and the nurses and aides at the OPCC at Good Sam who saved my life.  I wear it because my Dad would wear it and say no one else’s daughter should ever have to go through what my daughter went through.  I wear it to show my mom that I’m just as stubborn as she is and that I got my strength to endure from her.  I wear it to honor my husband who had to walk a path that no partner should ever have to walk, but did so with the strength and courage to carry both of us.  I wear it for the two boys I am proud to call my sons, who were forced to grow up in ways that young children shouldn’t have to, but did so without complaint.  I wear it for my friends who called, brought meals, sent cards, took care of children, sat with me, cried with me and prayed for my family.  Their presence in my life cannot be defined.

I wear teal because God has a mission for me that I need to grab hold of and claim.  I wear teal because I survived.  I don’t know what the future holds.  Life is so fragile and never goes according to plan, no matter how much we put toward that goal.  Keeping God in the midst of chaos is what anchored me to life.

As I look forward, I still face monthly blood work for Coumadin.  I face quarterly CA125 testing and exams and semi-annual CT’s.  And yes, I do get concerned.  I will become apprehensive before seeing my oncologist knowing that despite the odds, I still might have to face the Beast again.  I look forward to entering a clinical trial for my oncologist in hopes that I can help him determine ways to beat back the Beast.  And I will wear teal for my visits.

So as I reflect on my 48th year and look forward to number 49, I will wear teal and smile.  I have been through so much and come out stronger for it.  I wear teal as a reminder and to show I am better for my experience.  And, I look good in it.