Monday, October 9, 2017 will forever be burned into my memory as the day I found out I have breast cancer. Fast forward almost 5 months later, past the surgeries, the radiation, the tears, the frustration, the fear. I’m so ready to move on.
When I finished 29 of 30 treatments yesterday, I pulled out of the hospital parking lot and noticed the plethora of pink stickers all over the back of the car in front of me. I found myself wondering why was I not as motivated as many of these other women to wear pink pins on my clothes, or pink ribbons around my wrists, or a pink hat on my head, or get a pink tattoo, or place pink magnets and stickers on the back of my car? Why am I so timid about making my battle public in such a visual way? As a matter of fact, this is the first time I’ve blogged about my cancer. Is there something wrong with me? Am I still in denial? Am I still hoping the oncologist will call me and say, “Guess what? We got it all wrong. Turns out, you don’t have cancer. How ‘bout that?” Perhaps.
Then, another woman posted the same question to a breast cancer support group’s social media page this morning. She felt the same as I and was genuinely curious. Why so much pink everywhere? I felt relief I wasn’t alone in my confusion and in my complete apathy for pink and the ribbons that almost always accompany it.
The responses were heartfelt and moving. Some were even defensive. For some, this is the single most difficult thing they’ve ever had to try to overcome in their whole life. All the pink served as a reminder they are a fighter. They were proud of their survivor status. Others were not only battling cancer, but also had already lost loved ones to the cursed disease, so all the pink was in memory of those loved ones who died. Their answers make sense. I feel the same way; yet, I still find myself recoiling from most things that are cancer-related and pink. It’s been so confusing because pink is one of my favorite colors, but despite that fact, some days I avoid wearing a pink sweater or a pink blouse (even though they have nothing to do with breast cancer) because I don’t want anyone thinking I’m wearing that color because I have breast cancer. I know. It’s weird.
After reading all the responses and seeing I’m not alone in my feelings, I felt somewhat better, but still needed to explore why I feel so differently from many of my brave, pink sisters. So naturally, I decided to think about it out loud by writing about it. I hope others who feel the same way will get some type of comfort from this admission.
The reasons why I don’t openly wear pink ribbons or put pink stuff on my car and most likely won’t ever, ever, ever, get a pink tattoo:
After spending way more time thinking about this topic than I should have this morning, here’s my conclusion. Having cancer is one of many bumps in the road some of us will have to navigate around in this drag race we call life. Like any other obstacle, I plan to drive right through it and stick my middle finger out the window at it as I watch it fade away in the rear-view mirror. I don’t need or want pink ribbons all over my possessions to remind me of my battle with cancer; nor do I want cancer to be the focal point of my existence while I’m still existing. Full disclosure - I do have some pink ribbon socks and a t-shirt. Most of the time I wear them to bed.
Finally, I have no delusions this battle is over. I have one more radiation treatment to go followed by at least five years of the medication, tamoxifen, and the knowledge that it’s possible for the cancer to come back at any time while I live out the rest of my days. But while I’m living out the rest of my days, I want to focus on other things besides cancer.
Jennifer Furlong has 25 years’ experience in the communication field and teaches communication and public speaking courses in the Savannah area. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She currently resides in Richmond Hill, Ga. with her family of canines, felines, and humans. Let's be social! Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Just look for Professor SpeechLady. See you in cyberspace.
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