Pink ribbons came out of the woodwork when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and at first, I hated them.
Doris Cardwell is a wife, mother, writer, empty nester, a survivor of life, lover of coffee and laughter. A ten-year Inflammatory Breast Cancer Survivor, she has worked in survivorship, advocacy, and community education since her diagnosis.
Ten years ago, as a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient, pink came out of the woodwork. It was everywhere! The nurse navigators gave me a bag with a pink ribbon on it. There were pink ribbon pins put in my hand everywhere I went. There were also pink ribbon socks, jewelry, scarves and journals appearing. Well-meaning friends were trying to support me as I stepped into the world of breast cancer. I appreciated the support, but I was not a fan of drowning in a sea of pink.
I voiced my concerns to a best friend who had no experience with cancer. I told her I felt torn between vomiting and drowning myself if the pink didn't let up. She could not understand what my issue was. At the time, I wasn't even sure what my issue was. I just knew pink had never been my favorite color and within a week's time, my world had one color: pink! I remember when I understood I had breast cancer thinking, "OK God, this is not funny, you know I hate pink!”
My life had been tough. There was never time for girl things. I learned early on that you suck it up and keep going to survive. Pink, to me, went with weakness; I wanted no part of that. I didn't want pale pink ribbons to become me. I was a woman with breast cancer who wanted to live. I didn't want to wear my problems on my sleeve, ears, neck and ankles.
Today I can say my views on pink ribbons have evolved. I have learned to appreciate the pink ribbon. I understand now the value of the work done to educate and raise money for research using the pink ribbon. I also understand that women who encounter breast cancer can be some of the toughest women I have met. Pink didn't make them weak, it made them strong! Having breast cancer is not something you would sign up for to get to wear the ribbon. Yet, through all this pink, I have learned that I am more than a ribbon, more than a color. While I don't know exactly what it means to “fight like a girl,” I do know now that there is power in pink. And today, if you peek into my closet, you might just find some hot pink hanging there!