So Much Pink

Updated: Nov 29, 2021


It’s the word everyone uses on that first autumn day when we are sure that summer is gone for good until next year. Around here, it’s usually not uttered until October.

The word has many nuances.

“Desirably firm and crunchy,” like a salad.

“Easily crumbled,” like a cracker.

“Notably sharp, clean-cut, and clear,” the way cancer patients like their


“Curly, wavy,” like the hair that I lost.

If you haven’t heard that October is breast cancer awareness month, then maybe you have become desensitized to all the awareness month-ness. I mean, when we have something as banal as National Mincemeat Day, why would we keep listening? Everything loses its significance when everything must be celebrated. Although, today--October 26, is National Tennessee Day, and that is something to me.

I don’t know about other cancer survivors, but there is a dissociation that I experience after so much pink. I don’t even want to hear the protests about “pink-washing.” I just can’t think about cancer every damn day in one month. Probably because we simply aren’t sure yet about survivorship. Do I know that my cancer won’t return? Not really. It’s a spectre that I must live with, and we have managed to co-exist.

I don’t get mammograms anymore, although I get a CT scan, bone scan, and PET scan anytime I have a weird pain. The older I get, the more weird pains I have, so sometimes I wind up electing for an expensive test just to find out that I have mild arthritis. I can’t keep this up.

I do feel an obligation, though, to spread the message that prevention is better than cure. Get your mammogram. Eat nourishing foods. Exercise. Notice how your body moves through space and feel the preciousness of that. So many don’t return to normal life after an encounter with cancer; so many don’t return to life at all.

This weekend, I hiked with my husband and sons around Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia. We stroked the manes of ponies.

We picked apples and juiced them, experiencing through our tongues one of the best definitions of the word, crisp. We watched the sun set over the ancient mountains, letting the air of a new season whip our hair about as we huddled together. We quietly gloried in the moment while the sun cast rays on the valley below. I watched in awe as pink arms of light reached out to bless the land, and I didn’t think about breast cancer at all. I thought about Dvorak's New World Symphony, bourbon, real estate investments. I thought about those that I love, near and far, and of this beautiful world that is authored by a God that I don’t always understand, and sometimes flat out disagree with, for all the good that does. Beauty can slash and sear us because pain and loss are a real foils for it.

October feels like I'm supposed to write something really victorious about breast cancer, but the truth is--I had a fortunate case. My cancer was first thought to be pre-invasive, but three months later, after my surgery, it proved to be a very aggressive form. I did everything that was available at the time: surgery, chemo, Herceptin. I missed the boat on a clinical trial that might have prevented metastasis. But, part of what saved me is my mind is constantly trying to dodge catastrophes. We caught it because I always expect something dreadful to be coming, and I have many times feared that I present myself as a hypochondriac, although I was right! To be honest, after getting cancer twice with no family history, I just expect it to pop up again somewhere. As if I have some sort of syndrome that manufactures little cancer cells. So, I continue to scan my body with hyper-vigilance to see if I need to ask the doctor about imaging. It appears, though, that I should take a hike to look at this beautiful creation to get my mind on other things. Isn't that how we all cope with the hard things in life: bathe our souls in the forest, the mountains, the sea, the prairie. Whatever your landscape, immerse yourself in the excruciatingly beautiful day-at-a-time life when you can. It's good to think of other things beside cancer, even as we keep our eye on symptoms. Most of my life doesn’t center around cancer and thank God for that. I'm going to slide out of this October 2021, full of crisp weather, drink, and food, and be content.

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