October is the cruelest month, at least for a long-time breast cancer survivor like me who’s sick to death of all the pink and story after story of survival attributed to a can-do attitude. Enough.
A couple of days ago, I was simmering over a segment on the Today show in which Hoda Kotb, a breast cancer survivor, surprised five women who are experiencing the disease with a spa weekend in NYC. While the sentiment was kind enough, two things about the story nagged at me: 1) all of the survivors were middle class white women, reinforcing the narrative from the past 50+ years that breast cancer is a disease of privileged women (despite mounds of research revealing the extreme disparities in diagnosis, treatment, and survival rates depending on the socioeconomic and racial identity of women), and 2) all that pink–the women were picked up in a pink limo, wrapped in pink boas, and whisked away to a makeshift rooftop spa adorned with pink candles, pink flowers, blah, blah, blah.
But when I picked up Helena from softball practice later that afternoon, she showed me a message that she’d sent out to her virtual prayer group (I’m sure the specific technology/social medium has a name, but I have no idea what that would be!). As she read her post aloud, all of my cynicism about breast cancer awareness month faded away:
“So most of y’all know that it is breast cancer awareness month. So I just ask for all of us to be praying throughout this month for people who have and have had breast cancer. This is very personal to me because my mom has had breast cancer twice and has fought it both times. I know that she is a miracle and God helped her survive. I am so blessed that she is in my life and I thank God every single day!”
Sometimes, I forget that those around me, especially my family, are experiencing my struggles with breast cancer right alongside me.
Edwina also made me think twice about my perspective on this month and our journeys through breast cancer. She texted me to ask how I’ve been. We don’t see each other as much as we once did, because Edwina’s new apartment is in a neighborhood that I don’t feel too comfortable wandering into.
We were updating each other on our lives, and I admitted to Edwina that I’ve been feeling run down and haven’t been taking care of myself the way I know I should. That gets me down, and the result is that I get further entrenched in a rut–not eating the right foods, drinking one too many glasses of wine, and favoring television and the couch over the trail near my house.
Edwina responded with three words: “God got you.”
She’s right. I may hate the pink, and the way in which a disease that has affected so many lives has been turned into a fluffy, happy, commercialized onslaught.
But God does have me, my family, Edwina, and the rest of us who struggle with disease, fears, depression, whatever it might be in his sight.