Following my Mom’s passing from breast cancer in 2006 (Jesus, how could it have been so long?), I felt a sharp stab of pain every time I saw a pink ribbon. As you can imagine, after her 2+ year fight she valiantly put up on this second occurrence, almost everyone at both of her services was wearing a pink ribbon in honor of her battle. I spent a lot of time looking at the ground.
I even took my sons and nephews shopping because they wanted to get a pink item for their suits. Two chose pink shirts, the other two chose pink ties. I was never more proud of them for that, proudly laughing in the face of potential mockery and homophobic comments (I’ve got a rant on this I’m saving for another day), in order to honor their bigger-than-life and beloved grandmother.
It’s actually a blur to me if I wore any pink at all, maybe Chooch remembers as he is my memory bank for the few months before and after she passed. The family talked about everyone wearing one, but I didn’t. It felt wrong to me for some reason that I can’t really explain. It was like kryptonite to me and I quite literally winced every time I saw a pink ribbon.
I can quite clearly remember the first time I wore a pink ribbon again, as it was on my participant T-shirt at the 2008 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Richmond. I can tell you I wouldn’t have made it ten steps without Chooch and good friend Paulette Jaxton there that day. Although I don’t think she really knew what she was in for when she decided to join us. It was more than just a fundraiser and 5k for me; it was a crucial step in my healing process. And what a painful step it was. Talk about immersion therapy.
That was a huge day for me, as I had enough distance from the loss to be able to embrace the community once again and proudly take steps for such an important cause, when my Mom could no longer do so. We did several Races for the Cure in Washington, D.C. after her first diagnosis in 1991. Hell, she even stood on the stage with other survivors one year, lined up in their pink t-shirts as the opening ceremonies were held. She truly believed that doing the Races made a difference, and not just for raising donations. It also raised awareness and was an awe-inspiring sight, that sea of pink on the news that night.
My hope is to raise funds for breast cancer research every year, in her name. I’ve done this since that first race in 2008, with Paulette and Chooch at my side. When I was physically unable to do the race this year, I signed up for the Sleep-In for the Cure. This allowed me to raise funds even though I was unable to attend. They even sent me a t-shirt. I’ll be doing the race, every year, and am considering adding other Komen races in different places. Even if I don’t raise any money through donations, they still get my registration fee, after all. And every penny counts. Someday, I’ll work my way up to the 3-Day race, as I’ve wanted to do for years and am freshly inspired to finally reach that goal. Who knows? 2011 may be the year.
It’s taken me weeks to write this post, and it’s more confessional than I first intended. All I really wanted to do was:
- Remind you to do a breast self exam. Male or female, you need to know how your breasts feel to be able to determine if and when something changes.
- Urge you to immediately get to your physician to get it checked out if you find anything that concerns you, no matter how small. You have a brief window for early detection, and it can be the difference between life and death.
- Ask you to get another opinion if you feel your doctor is dismissive of your concerns. If you don’t have health insurance, check into local programs for a free or lower cost mammogram. It won’t go away just because you don’t have insurance.
- Tell you NOT to rely on youth for protection. You’d be surprised at how many people get breast cancer in their 20’s and 30’s. In fact, my ex-husband’s sister recently won her battle against breast cancer, and we went to school together. She’s 41, just like me.
Every race I’ve done has been wonderful in its own way, and each time it is a bit less difficult staring down the pink ribbon.