Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pinktober

On October 9th, two years to the day after my father-in-law lost his life to pancreatic cancer, my husband and I joined 40,000 others in downtown Phoenix for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. We walked the 5K race, pushing our Bug in his stroller as he napped. He wore this onesie, a gift from my college girlfriends. My husband's colleagues had formed a team - Team Booby and the Beast - in my honor, and had hats made, pink baseball caps that said "We Love Jen!" (Mine said, "I'm Jen!") There is something powerful in solidarity. And these are many of the same colleagues who purchased a personal chef delivery service for us so that I don't have to think about cooking most nights. For me, knowing our family is not alone in this fight makes me sure I can do this.

And yet, I walked the race with mixed emotions. The first half of October was rough for me, emotionally, and I couldn't quite put my finger on why. I'm still not sure I've nailed the reason, but I think I'm getting closer: breast cancer awareness is everywhere. At a time when I am all too aware of this disease and can't escape it (although I'm trying!) pink is literally permeating every storefront, sports event and public service announcement out there. At the race, an announcer cheered loudly for every sign as the people holding them crossed the finish line. I remarked to Chris that he had just a little too much enthusiasm for cancer. Chris pointed out that we were also raising a lot of money for cancer prevention, awareness and research, and maybe that's why the guy was enthusiastic. Sometimes my husband knows what he's talking about.

One particularly rough day for me was National Metastatic Cancer Awareness Day. I could go look it up, but I honestly don't remember what the date was. I do remember a friend posted about it on Facebook, with a link to an organization that funds research for Stage IV breast cancer. I clicked on the link, and was bombarded with scores of frightening statistics. I immediately felt sick to my stomach, and worried that I've been taking this all too lightly, that my confidence is misplaced. Turns out, ignorance is bliss. Again, Chris talked me back from the ledge, and reminded me that these organizations often use harsh statistics to tug at people's emotions and therefore encourage donations. Not every statistic is going to apply to me.

Earlier this week, I read a NY Times article on the "Pinking of America," focused mainly on the efforts of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. There is a significant camp who think that Komen does more harm than good by placing its emphasis on awareness rather than research. I do not subscribe to that position; both are important and Komen is excellent at what it does. Nancy Brinker, who heads the organization and lost her sister to breast cancer, admits that America runs on consumerism, and that we had to find an approach that didn't scare people away from the disease. Is it terrible if I prefer that less scary approach? Even if it means pink everywhere?

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