Since I was nine years old, I have always dreaded the month of October. Looking back, I realize the sense of relief felt as Thanksgiving had passed and Christmas was nearing. Not because of Santa Clause, gifts and sweets that most children were expecting, but because it was almost the New Year.
There is something so hopeful in a new beginning, as if all the pain of the past could be washed away, as if it were true that life had a reset button and we could hit it and start over.
October dread has been my companion most of my life, rooted in the death of my wonderful mother, Eileen, who at the age of 24 years old died suddenly, a shadow which has followed me into my adult life. Mercy came many years later in the birth of a child. My first child, a daughter, was born early in October. The child was a gift, the timing was a gift. I began to notice how lovely October was in Texas, fall colors, cooler weather and the air was crisp. I soaked up joy.
My October dread has reared it’s ugly head again. Why? Because in 2007, I was given a shocking diagnoses of breast cancer and not just any breast cancer, Triple Negative Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Not one, but two forms of cancer each in its’ own right highly fatal, requiring very aggressive treatment with little hope for survival past a few years. Mercifully, I had an outstanding response to treatment and now 4 years later, I am viewed as a “long term” survivor. “Breast free”, as we call it in the post breast cancer world, I am happy, and I am grateful, but now struggling to once again conquer the month of October. With the “Pinking” of America, sometimes there is an untended backlash on women affected by cancer. Many in society, including us fighting cancer are tiring of “Pinktober”. In a world showing signs of pink fatigue and women still dying in large numbers, people often turn to the experts, (us with cancer) to express their frustrations. About mid September, my email box starts to fill up with messages ranging from the newest lemon water cure to their thoughts on different pink organizations. The delete key is my best friend.
However, as frustrated as we might be over “pink washing”, or the “pinking” of America, we have to not forget about the “pink” woman, the one who has to deal with breast cancer. Once again I have sat at the death bed of a young woman whose battle with IBC is done. She is at peace. Her family will have to go on without her, leaving behind a husband who just a little over a one year ago had never heard of IBC, and two young children, their mom whisked away so fast, that it must seem like a bad dream and not real.
So what are we doing to do about it? How can we strike some balance in the world between the pink fatigue and not forgetting the women (and men) in need? I have an idea and I am putting my efforts heavily into this, funding research. The IBC Network was formed by myself with others who care about women attacked by a disease that can’t be diagnosed until a stage III, that doesn’t present with a lump, and tends to strike younger women often prior to 40 years old. So, this is your invitation, your call to action. The next time you feel pink rage, donate. The next time someone tells you what they don’t like about whatever charity that comes into the conversation, as them to donate. We can do something about this cancer. We can get more research funded if we join together. Will you answer the call? Let this October be the true beginning of hope, a time for healing and a time for joy. www.theibcnetwork.org