I remember clearly the day I found out I had breast cancer. After it started sinking in, I looked up and said, "God, this isn't funny, you know I hate pink!” And sure enough, soon there was pink everywhere. Pink ribbon socks, bags, bracelets, t-shirts, earrings, necklaces and oh those pink ribbon lapel pins.
At one point I tried to explain to my friend why I was hating the pink ribbons. She didn't understand, so I said to her, "Look, we are both survivors of childhood sexual abuse, right? Would you want to wear a ribbon for that?"
"Well, no" she replied.
I was trying hard not to let breast cancer become who I was. I wanted things to be normal, and pink everywhere was not normal for me. I truly did appreciate that people cared and wanted to bring me gifts, but I didn't know how to handle my feelings about that darn pink ribbon. It made me feel like I was in a club that I never wanted to be in. It also felt like it was suffocating me, changing who I was. I didn't like that. I was not used to being around doctors’ offices, having so many appointments or needing to rest.
I certainly was not used to people talking about my body all the time. "Are they taking your breast off?" several women asked. What? Who asks that question? If you do, you shouldn't.
I tried so hard to only have breast cancer, and not let breast cancer become who I was. I didn't want it to consume my life or capture my identity. And did I mention, I didn't like pink?
Fast forward 11 years. I no longer hate pink ribbons, I appreciate them to a certain extent. I tolerate them and sometimes even embrace them. If you look in my closet, you will find a pink shirt and a lovely pink ribbon purse that was a gift from a friend. I write and speak about cancer. Cancer may be part of my story, but it's not the whole of who I am. I am a wife, a mother, a friend, a writer, a coffee lover, co-worker and much more. I have learned that pink ribbons can make people feel better. They can give people something to do, a way to offer support. My favorite thing they do is raise awareness and money.
Pink ribbons do not define me, but it took some time for me to figure that out. It also took time for me to learn to like the color pink. I think God does have a sense of humor!