It is October; therefore, I will be avoiding the “Cancer Sucks” meme.
I never understood why my cancer survivor friends reacted so strongly to the pink ribbon. I avoided it, of course, because I didn’t identify with the pink ribbon. I never had breast cancer. My sister (and aunts and cousins) did, of course. I figured they’d be all over the pink ribbon as a way to signal their survivor ship.
But, I’ll never forget the day my sister held up a 6′ x 6′ bubblegum pink fleece blanket that was covered with pink ribbons. I sighed with adorableness. She gagged and rolled her eyes.
“Really? R-e-a-l-l-y? What the hell does this match, anyway? Who the f*** buys a bubblegum pink fleece blanket and then expect to have it displayed in a living room? Do I look like I like pink? Do I look like I like ribbons??” She balled up the blanket and threw it on her couch. Then, she picked it back up again and stuffed it under a cushion.
My sister — affectionately known as “The Mean One” in our family – isn’t known for her tactful subtlety.
But, the more survivors I met, the more I was hit with the same Pink Ribbon Gag Reflex.
The responses ranged from “I’m sick of the damn ribbon” to “The ribbon doesn’t cure cancer.”
They are all right — re-posting on Facebook that you hate cancer doesn’t cure cancer. It just makes me feel bad that I’m one of the 40% of your FB friends who won’t re-post it.
But, the pink ribbon — and all of the ribbon marketing techniques — did have a positive effect. The ribbon campaign helped us to talk about cancer, boobs, and our lady parts. I don’t hesitate when I say the word “breast” anymore in public because, likely, I’m usually using it in the same sentence as “cancer.” And, if all the pink colored utensils, pot holders, and ribbons remind you to think about your own breast health, then the ribbon has done its job.
Because it’s October, I see Facebook posts and news stories about Breast Cancer Month. It’s a recognized month with lots of legislative, social, medical, and media support behind it.
But, in the past three weeks, my news feed also has had many posts about people announcing they have cancer. Or, in the case of last week, that two children — barely older than my own daughter – died of cancer. I’m reminded of my student who passed from cancer in June at the age of 20. Of a first year student in one of my classes whose mom just died two weeks ago of cancer. And of a Retinoblastoma mom-friend of mine who was just diagnosed with cancer. Finally, on Friday, as one of my doctoral classmates came into class, she apologized for her tardiness and announced that, 10 minutes ago, her mother-in-law had just died of cancer; this was after just burying her sister-in-law — who died of cancer — earlier in the week.
I’m eager for this month to be over.
Having hung around with one of my favorite professors who specializes in superstitious behaviors, I’m beginning to feel like October is a superstitious month. I’m beginning to think that November 1st — All Souls Day — is a little too obvious timing.
I’m eager to get to November because, to me, it’s a month of HOPE.
November 18th will be ONE year since my mastectomy. The month when my body and mind were freed from the weight of cancer. It was the month when I truly realized that all I needed in life were good friends, good family, and good faith to know I could conquer anything. I felt that high that people must get when they crowd surf at a concert — this feeling of trust, knowing that there was no possible way a single person could lift my 188 lb body; but, together, lots of people could. And, the only way I could get from one place to another was to relax, let go, and just enjoy the ride.
But, I still have to get through October. I began October with plans for a 1/2 Marathon I was too tired to run (which, I never did run). I muddled through mid-October with emotional exhaustion. And, I’m ending October overwhelmed with the number of cancer related news in my life.
But, after an October of sorrow, pain, feelings of failure and exhaustion, I’m looking forward to a November that reminds me of love, kindness and compassion. A November that reminds me of life, of knowledge, and of perseverance. A November that reminds me of health, spiritual wealth, and limitless joy.
A November that holds not just a day of Thanks, but a life time of gratitude.
Peace, love and channeling the good vibes of November,