Wednesday, October 26, 2011


(I had something else completely different in mind to to tell you about today, but then this came up...)

October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, you have probably seen countless pink ribbons, adorning everything from shopping bags to newspapers to office supplies to bracelets and cereal boxes. You can even buy a Pink Ribbon bagel. There's so much pink out there, that by the end of the month, "awareness" looks more like a rose-colored marketing ploy than anything to do with a cure.

Five years ago, I visited a friend, who was waging her own breast cancer battle that October. We were chatting, and getting ready to walk down the street to see the house they had just bought, and were planning to renovate soon. It seemed like a huge undertaking to me at the time, with everything else going on, but I understood. It was the perfect size house for their family, close to schools, in the town she loved, with a bigger kitchen, and cozy den for the kids, and family dining room with pineapple-print wallpaper. They would be all set.

As we left the kitchen to grab our coats, she spied a pink bag of M&Ms on the counter. I had my three year-old in tow, and my friend offered her some candy, even though it was only 10am. I chuckled, and commented on how I'd never seen pink M&Ms before, and she replied, "Oh yes, it's pink everything in October..." Her tone wasn't harsh, but her eyes rolled. We both knew, but didn't say, that more pink wasn't going to help her get what she desperately needed: time.

Since then, I've found it hard to get on board the Pink Ribbon/Awareness bandwagon. My friend didn't need awareness, after all. She needed a cure.

So, I was surprised yesterday, when the Pink caught me off guard. I was taking photos at my son's cross country meet, and all the runners wore pink cards with the name of someone afflicted with breast cancer. Some survivors. Some not. I saw my friend's name. And I saw "Aunt Joan", and "Grandma", and "Mom."

It was a tough meet. The runners faced stiff competition. Everyone on the team came out to race, nobody held back in order to rest up for the Invitational later this week. And as the last regular meet of the season, everyone wanted to finish strong. In my viewfinder, the juxtaposition of grimaces on the boys' faces and names on the cards was striking.

Real "awareness" doesn't come from eating pink candy. That it comes to children, who witness their mothers' struggle with devastating illness, is a crying shame. Buying pink pens in October doesn't adequately pay tribute to anyone's battle. But the strength, determination and endurance I saw in that race was a fitting way to honor those women. In the grand scheme of things, running a 5k is a small gesture, but I liked that its meaning was writ large, on pink paper.


Carol said...

Very moving....both the image and the narrative. Well done Chris.

Joyce said...

This is powerful. One of your best! Yes, we have seen the pick everywhere, but this brings it to a very personal level. Thanks.