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boobs and beyond

October 31, 2010

Today, the last day of October, I’ve been inspired by Write Pink through Bigger Picture Blogs to add a tiny mark of punctuation to Breast Cancer Awareness month.

I am full of breast cancer awareness. My Grandma Mary had breast cancer. My aunt Cindy had it three times, punctuated not by charm but tragedy. So far, my risk is low – but I’ve already had extra questions and attention at the doctor’s office, and one needle-core biopsy.

(I wrote more about my own awareness in an essay published a few years ago.)

I sponsor friends and colleagues who Race for the Cure. I have pink ice cube trays, pink office supplies, and a special-edition Pink Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. My mother and I have both participated in studies that we hope help pave the way toward a cure.

But that cure is one hope among many. Cancer is big and scary. I’ve watched people battle colon, pancreatic, brain and ovarian cancer, melanoma and leukemia. Every year, we sponsor a team to walk for the cure for Juvenile Diabetes, which my young cousin suffers from. Next month is lung cancer awareness month, which has been on our family radar since another aunt – who did nothing worse than live in Manhattan for years – was diagnosed with it last year.

Because cancer is personal. We worry about and rally behind and fundraise for cancers that hit close to home. When a cancer becomes about women – about daughters and mothers, sisters, partners, aunts and grandmothers – it’s close to all of our homes; when it’s branded with a cute color and worked into every corner of consumer culture, it ends up inside all of our homes. It’s a wonderful thing, our collective power to gather attention and money for a cause so big and so sad. But for those whose personal ties to cancer don’t have as recognizable a color or slogan or walk or race, October holds less hope. Because while cancer competes for cells and lives, cancer survivors and researchers compete for resources.  In newspapers and magazines and blogs, writers and survivors squared off in statistical debates over whose cancer kills more, and which one gets all the attention. Pink vs. red. Awareness vs. prevention.

All month, I was seeing – and thinking – pink. I was thinking Cindy. I was also thinking Tammy, Carl, Buddy, Michelle, Jacob, Daniel, Robert, Andrea and other friends and stories I’ve read about cancers of all kinds. Because October’s pink packaging reminded me of breast cancer and all those other mean, mysterious cell mutations. I was worrying about using my cell phone, and living near power lines, and feeding my son and not getting enough exercise. I was Googling “cancer awareness calendar.” And I was hoping that we all leave October with a greater sense of charity, health and prevention.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2010 7:19 pm

    This is great, and a lot of how I feel. I struggle sometimes because there are so many good causes, so many disease to support. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Be sure to add this to the Linky ( ) to share with everyone else and for a chance to win Vintage Pearl!

  2. November 1, 2010 3:14 pm

    Cancer is a word that inspires fear, a word I sometimes fear to so much as voice. Finding cures for cancer is so very important, but while that work continues being aware of the many ways in which to prevent or detect early on so many types of cancer such as breast cancer is equally as important.

    Thank you for a great post on this subject and for sharing your own very moving experiences with the people you love.

  3. Elizabeth permalink
    November 1, 2010 8:17 pm

    Good post, L. It’s crazy to me that in our lifetime cancer went from being unnamed to something we have all had to face.

  4. November 2, 2010 3:12 am

    I’ve never thought about the competitive aspect of cancer research. You are right; it is evident each year. You are also right that all forms of cancer are vicious and need to be researched. And, yes, it is important to have reminders, like pink, to encourage us in better directions.

  5. November 2, 2010 1:51 pm

    Well said, Leslie. This is a wonderful, important post.

  6. November 2, 2010 10:35 pm

    My goodness! What an important, eye opening perspective. I appreciate this.

  7. November 4, 2010 4:15 am

    Cancer sucks. Period. I am reminded of that everyday since my father’s diagnosis and passing. Important post. Thank you for words.

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