In case you missed the pink memo, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is always a confusing time for me. Even before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the pink frenzy of October sent me into a tailspin. While I will always be an advocate of raising awareness, the flurry of fashion, foodie, and fitness fetes all benefitting breast cancer felt a little overwhelming.
So when I was diagnosed in 2013, this internal conflict was brought forth in a new light. Here I was, a direct beneficiary of all of this heightened awareness and beyond grateful for that. But the celebratory nature was a disconnect for me, but I didn’t make much of it. I was in survival mode. Over the last few years, my connection to this month has shifted. Last year I was very reflective and able to articulate 5 ways to mindfully honor breast cancer month.
But this year, from a selfish perspective (recognizing the good that this month does in fact bring) I’m just annoyed and uncomfortable. Just as I finally feel as if I am moving forward in a fulfilling way in my life, it seems the pink reminders are everywhere, which I guess is the point. I keep trying to ignore and avoid it, but I’ve never been very good at ignoring or avoiding anything, especially now in my post-cancer world.
The other day I was venting to a friend about how it just seemed so in my face this year and I decided to simply boycott. At which point she very sensitively pointed out that I was wearing all pink. Like literally – head to toe pink, from my rose colored glasses and pink Molokai baseball cap to my running shoes and socks both of which had pink accents. Damn it! The fact that pink (the jewel toned version) is my favorite color and an accent in every aspect of my life doesn’t help my attempts to avoid.
I know I sound bitter, but don’t be alarmed. This is partly me needing to reconcile this need to think the cancer is behind me and looking to put the pretty pink bow on it. And as proud as I am as to how I am moving forward in my life, I know better.
Because I can actually see the potential lesson that is waiting to be learned. And I also recognize there is a much bigger world outside of me dealing with my post-cancer neuroses including a political climate which alone could be contributing to my discomfort. But regardless, I am embracing this unease as part of my ever unfolding spiritual awareness and choosing to come to terms with some of the untouched, fearful, and sad sides of my healing journey that I simply haven’t had the courage to face.
As we say in spiritual circles, what we resist persists, so I’m going in knowing I have the tools, support and faith to tap into these deeper layers. I know that with surrender comes grace and a new light and perspective to illuminate the path.
And it starts by focusing on what I’m grateful for. Like the opportunity to connect with so many amazing women I speak to who are newly diagnosed. As anyone who has dealt with cancer knows, the initial moment of diagnoses is extremely overwhelming and I remember it being so helpful to speak to people that had been through it. So now I get to pay that forward. And I realize that it truly is a gift that is helpful to my own healing process. In a time when everyone speaks about being part of a “tribe”, there is perhaps no tribe greater than that of people facing cancer. A shared experience that none of us would wish for, but which will bond us together forever. But it’s a heartbreaking membership because it comes with an acknowledgement that not everyone is fortunate to survive. And for these precious souls, their families, and their lost potential futures my heart aches, not just in October, but for all the days that this is happening.
So really, I guess this is what October means to me. It’s about connection to so many people whose lives are touched by cancer whether directly or through a loved one. It’s about grieving the many lives that are so tragically lost. It’s about raising awareness and supporting causes that resonate at a personal level. It’s about early detection and taking the steps to prioritize our health. It’s about survival and honoring the unbelievable journeys that are equal parts horrific, humbling, and meaningful for so many. And it’s about arming ourselves with information.
This is also an idea time to spread the pink love. No one can question that breast cancer is perhaps the most well branded of all cancers. But there are so many other people suffering from lesser known forms of cancers that don’t have the same marketing and branding clout. Here are just a few resources for specific cancers that I have personally been touched by through friends and family that have passed. If you are looking to donate dollars in addition to or in lieu of breast cancer, you might explore the following.
- Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program
- Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation
- The DeRosa Foundation For Colon Cancer Research and Prevention
At the end of the day, any type of “awareness month” is about stepping up and supporting those who need our support in a way that feels authentic and natural. If you know someone who has been or is currently being touched by cancer, reach out and let them know you are thinking of them. I promise, it means everything.
ps. If you find yourself or a loved one newly diagnosed, be sure and check out my top tips and resources to support the newly diagnosed here.
A modified version of this article was originally posted on MindBodyGreen