My painting, "Mighty" is dedicated to my two friends who lost their battle with breast cancer, but won the war, because their spirits live on as an example to all of us. This is a hard one to write. It's not pretty and it's not happy. That is the disclaimer to today's blog post. I apologize if it's harsh.
One of my childhood friends, Ashley, died a couple of years ago after a valiant 26 month fight against breast cancer. She went through hellish, grueling treatments that took away her quality of life. Although facing terminal cancer, her daily posts were so energetic, full of life, and powerful, they gave me a lift. In the back of my mind, I thought she would beat it. Just because she was amazing and fighting so hard.
But she didn't. My illusions of a miraculous outcome to her fight did not materialize. She died at 47, left two kids ages 9 and 12, as well as a husband and family I've known all my life.
My beautiful friend, Angi, who died a little over a year ago, brilliantly researched and put full faith into her body healing itself through natural methods, following strict protocols, doing everything in mind body and spirit to fight, she too succumbed to this disease. I was so shocked to hear that she had died, I couldn't speak for a minute. I believed because she believed, even though it didn't look good, up until the moment I heard she had passed. She left behind the beginnings of an organic farm, her soul-mate, Mykeal, and her wonderful 12 year old son, Adam.
These women both remind me not to take things for granted, to toughen up and to be thankful. And to make self care a priority, love hard, lean into my faith, and to be brave.
I was diagnosed 6 years ago. I am one of the lucky ones not to have mets after 5 years. I do not take one day for granted. But I also don't like the "survivor" label. I want to thrive outside of cancer. I do not want to be defined by this disease, I want to live my life every day with the lessons learned from breast cancer. But I don't want "breast cancer survivor" following me around any more. I am much more than that.
Pink does not and has not ever represented breast cancer to me. And October gets under my skin. Maybe because of my friends. Maybe because of post traumatic stress . But a major part of it is that I feel breast cancer has somehow become sexualized. Everywhere I turn this time of year I see pink. "Survivor", "fight", and kitschy phrases for breast cancer awareness month. I appreciate the awareness, but at times it seems - what? Bad taste, too cute, undignified? Am I the only one? Am I the only one who heartily disagrees with the notion that a Victoria's Secret runway show with pink lingerie is an appropriate venue to raise money for the cause? I went through chemo, surgery, radiation, and have a lovely scar that reminds me of my battle every day. It's not pretty. It's sure as hell is not sexy.
Breasts are that beautiful part of the anatomy that have given sustenance to offspring throughout time, fueling a new generation of human beings. They are the soft comfort to our babies. The first thing we felt after we were born. They are markers of our journey into womanhood. And yes, men like them. And when I see a slogan like " Save the Ta-Tas" , I can't help but think the latter was the only contributing idea behind it and it pisses me off. Can you imagine a world where prostate cancer awareness is fueled by men strutting aroung in tight blue underwear?
Breast cancer is not associated with pink, at least to me. It is black. It is the mass in the mammogram and the cloud that descends on the soul when the words " you have cancer" are spoken directly to you. It is trying to tell those you love that you have a disease that might kill you. It is the scar, the loss of something more than a breast. It is being a "survivor" until you die. Praying it is not from this disease that chose you.
Angi and Ashley were rock star cancer fighters. Both of these women were models of strength, integrity, grace, grit and beauty when cancer had taken everything but their spirit.
Their life and fight, and the thousands of women who are fighting and will be diagnosed, need not be infantilized or demeaned by 14 year old models with perfect breasts donning pink push ups or men drinking pink beer wearing "Save the Ta-tas" t-shirts. If we are going to celebrate women , if we are going to have a campaign of "Me too", lets not be complicit in sexualizing a disease that attacks one of the very attributes that distinguishes and celebrates the female body.
What breast cancer needs is research into treatment and prevention from eastern to western medicine, holistic to cutting edge technology, funds that go directly to individuals and families affected by this disease. Mainstream information for women on all kinds of treatment, all kinds of preventative medicine, supplements, tests. What it does not need is an organization that lines the pockets of the top execs through the sale of pink satin panties.
So Komen organization, take your pink, your $500,000 CEO salary, your lawsuits against other cancer organizations, and put them where the sun don't shine and it's not going to be pink in there. You forgot what you were fighting for.
*****If you are fighting this battle right now, if you have had a lumpectomy or mastectomy, OR, if you are just interested in becoming more familiar with your breast tissue so that you are able to perform self examinations each month, here is a link to Melissa Russell, owner of Quantum Healing Arts in St. Louis and her fabulous online program "Beloved Bust" http://www.belovedbust.com/