. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Today I’m wearing pink. I’ve invited my friends to wear pink and I invite you to wear pink.
Just in case you think that’s a silly thing–a fad–and it doesn’t really matter. Hear me out. Pink may mean a lot to someone you pass in the grocery store aisle or post office. A person effected by cancer who sees you walking along the street, in your workplace or sitting in your class.
In October eleven years ago I was undergoing one of the most intensive periods of breast cancer treatment I would face. I was diagnosed in September, just in time to start seeing pink everywhere. At first, I dealt with the fear of what facing cancer would mean in my life. My mom had died during her fight against breast cancer. It was a heart-breaking process, seeing cancer and chemo drain the life from her. Would I face the same thing?
When October ’99 hit, so did the pink ribbons, the magazine articles and the t-shirts. Pink ribbons seemed to be everywhere as I sorted through my fears. I couldn’t even make a simple trip to the grocery store without being reminded ” that I have cancer” as I picked out my yoplait yogurt for the week, each with a shiny pink lid complete with a pink ribbon printed on top. All in the name of “awareness.”
I’m aware, I’m aware already. Please, must I be reminded everywhere I turn?
One afternoon as I sat at the end of the exam table in my surgeon’s office, I might as well have been sitting on the edge of a cliff. I felt so far removed from life as usual. Still, to keep from staring out at the unknown, I pulled a magazine from the clear holder on the wall and thumbed through it.
That’s what you do at every appointment, flip through a magazine that you’d probably never order for your home and wait. Such an ordinary thing helped me to escape the diagnosis to feel ordinary for a while.
However, I was flipping through the October issue of a women’s magazine with nearly every page plastered in pink: pink ribbons on toilet paper and band-aid ads, stories including pictures of men in pink shirts and hairless women in pink bandanas, even pink wigs. It pushed me over the edge–from anger through overload to being thoroughly amused. This was completely absurd!
As I flipped further into the magazine, I found a picture of a normal looking woman who described her journey through cancer. It was exactly like mine, but she was farther down the road. I smiled and thought God, isn’t this just like you to take me through cancer at a time of the year where encouragement is printed, painted, plastered and put-on everywhere I look. A little light broke through on my path as I came to peace with–pink.
I came to see pink as a way that people who felt helpless to say the right thing could say, I care and support you without tripping over their words. I saw pink as a color of hope. I’m pulling for you. Hooray, you’ve made it one more day! It said I may not know you but hang in there, you’re not alone. It also said someone I love lost the fight, but I loved her and I wear pink to heal, to celebrate her life and the spirit with which she faced the fight of her life.
* * * * * * *
Four days after my surgery I stood in downtown Sacramento where a river of thousands of flowed around me. I stood on a corner with a pink sash pinned at my shoulder and hip, a member of the court in one of life’s peculiar pageants–a chosen one. Strangers waved as they walked by; some came close and shared a quick “hang in there, we’re out here for you.” I was warmed by the sun and overcome by the beauty of it lighting up the capital building in the background, its green lawn turned carnival for the day with pink balloon arches and walkers stepping out into the street pushing strollers, walking dogs, carrying signs with slogans or pictures of love ones lost.
I just had to stand there and cry over the power and beauty in this moment. Familiar faces emerged through the blur of tears. A choir of cheering friends bounded my way swarming me with hugs and jostling to grab my hand, to point at the signs pinned to their shirts with my name. “Mari..Mari…Mari.” each piped up in a distinct, much-cherished voice.
Pink became a color of love and support during a hard time. A color of hugs and hope and comfort along a journey of unknowns. So why not wear pink, you just might speak volumes to comfort and encourage those touched by cancer.