Ugh. I made it probably five days into October before being reminded that it is breast cancer awareness month. Before breast cancer I wondered if all of the pink made the survivors or the fighters feel supported. Now that I am one, all of the pink just makes me feel anxious. Anxious and somewhat annoyed. There is nothing pretty or pink about breast cancer. Next month I will go in for my blood test to see if my breast cancer has returned. Just thinking about it makes my stomach tighten. I don’t know if you can make a pumpkin latte pink- but if they could- I think they would.
There is also something nice about the awareness. I believe awareness is half of the battle. Awareness probably saved my life. I knew that breast cancer could kill young women. I knew that lumps could be benign cysts, and I knew that lumps could be silent killers. You’ve heard me say it a million of times before, but the nurse practitioner in my doctor’s office thought my lump was just a cyst. She told me to just keep an eye on it for a couple of months. She told me to maybe cut back a little on coffee. But my awareness made me ask for an ultrasound. My awareness saved my life.
So when I think about the power of awareness, I feel grateful for all of that pink.
And when I think about the power of awareness, I feel grateful for the protestors in St. Louis, and for all the football players taking a knee. They are the pink shirts of racial inequities. They are reminding us to check ourselves. To give ourselves our monthly exams. To ask ourselves if we need further evaluation.
I spoke to a woman once who told me that she has never gotten a mammogram because she is too afraid of finding out that she might have cancer.
I get it. Even though I had a double mastectomy, I am still supposed to give myself a breast exam every month. I am supposed to make sure that cancer hasn’t found a sneaky way of coming back in the tissue around my implants. And sometimes this paralyzes me. I am afraid of what I might find.
But we can’t afford to let fear make those decisions for us.
It is scary to find something buried inside of us that has the potential to blow up our lives. But we need to search for it anyway.
Ask your friends of color about their experiences. If you don’t have friends of color, find a book or an article by someone who tells their truth with bravery. Read it. Reflect on it.
Pretending our racial bias isn’t there, won’t make it go away. It will continue to grow, it will turn our brothers and sisters into the “other”. It has the power to dehumanize. It is a cancer that needs further testing, further conversation, future investigation about how to treat it. About how to beat it. About how to find a cure.
Thanks to the all of the pink keychains, shopping bags, coffee cups, and ribbons- I can’t get through October without being aware that it is breast cancer awareness month. I hope it reminds women to check themselves, to see their doctors, to ask for further testing when their gut tells them to. It would be easy to roll my eyes and look away. To say all of the pink was obnoxious and overdone. But it would be foolish, too. Because awareness can start conversations, and conversations can inspire action, and action can change policy and save lives, and get us all a little bit closer to freedom.