October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so be prepared to see pink everywhere you turn.
In July 2011 Barbara Carlos was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. A resident of Hawaii, she works in administrative support at a college and has retirement as her career goal. Music keeps her sane, as side effects of chemo and radiation linger. Overweight since childhood, she keeps trying to lose the estrogen-laden fat that her cancer loves.
When I was a little girl, my parents had a house built. Although only 6 years old, I was allowed to pick the color for my bedroom. Like most little girls, I chose pink.
Just before we moved in, my parents sat me down to explain that a mistake had been made and my bedroom had been painted green, a very pale shade of green. They told me they were going to leave it as it was but in a couple of years it would be painted again and I could have my pink then. I guess I was a rational child and I accepted my powerlessness in the situation. Sure enough, a few years later the room was painted pink.
Before the pink paint even dried, I developed a sudden aversion to pink, which I still have to this day. Now, pink is a perfectly nice color as far as colors go. I just don’t care for it. It’s not as bad as orange or lime green but I prefer blue or almost anything else. Every once in a while, over the years, I have made myself step outside my comfort zone to buy an article of clothing that is pink. Inevitably, it migrates to the back of the closet and is rarely seen.
Which brings me to Pinktober. I don’t know how or why October was selected for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I suppose it doesn’t really matter in the giant scheme of things. My first Pinktober was kind of a blur. I was still reeling from my breast cancer diagnosis and mastectomy, and there were two rounds of chemo that month, one at the beginning and one at the end. And that was the month when my body started its impressive revolt against the chemicals that were hopefully killing all of the cancer cells and not too much of the rest of me.
During that first Pinktober, I didn’t wear any pink. Actually, I felt awful and exhausted and just put on whatever clean clothes I had lying around, hoping I looked semi-presentable on any given day.
But I remember watching my nephew’s college football team on TV that month. They were wearing pink socks and pink sweatbands and pink patches on their shirts and helmets. Their opponents were similarly attired. I was amazed at all the flashes of pink on the screen as I silently took it all in. With the exception of my nephew and a few of his teammates, these young men didn’t know me and maybe they didn’t know any women who had breast cancer, and yet there they were, supporting me in what was truly a struggle for me that first year. I was struck that they cared. Yeah, I know, the coach told them they had to wear the pink stuff, but I still appreciated the gesture.
I sort of ignored Pinktober over the next few years. If someone brought it up, I acknowledged it, but it was no big deal. Again, I rarely wear pink, and quite frankly, I didn’t get what the fuss was all about with pink, pink, pink, whether ribbons or not, being all over the place.
Last year was my fifth Pinktober. Five is the magic number, so to celebrate, I wore something pink every single day. Those who see me regularly were probably tired of seeing the same outfits on me all month, but I wanted to acknowledge pink power. I colored my hair pink. Some friends helped me make pink ribbons to pass out at a health fair where I manned a very pink breast cancer awareness booth.
Pinktober is coming again, as it does every year. I have already gotten my pink clothes out from the back of the closet and I’ll be wearing them throughout the month. No pink hair this year, but I think I’ll do it again if I make 10 years.
The pink thing might be kind of hokey, and I admit it’s not for everyone. I just hope that sometime during the month, I am seen in my pinkness by another woman who is feeling awful and exhausted as she struggles through her first Pinktober of diagnosis and treatment. I hope she knows that she is supported by all of us, whether or not we are wearing pink, and that she will go on to celebrate her fifth Pinktober, her 10th Pinktober, and her 20th Pinktober.