Looking At Pictures

So my most recent posts have been about the spring runs/walks/arts events to benefit local breast cancer organizations. Last week was the annual Komen on the boardwalk at the beach 10 minutes away from my hometown. The weekly freebie newspapers just came out yesterday and the pictures were all over the covers—bright pink splashes on the front pages.

Usually I avoid those rags of local “news” this time of year and in October because of the breast cancer celebrations coverage. But I did pick a couple up this time. I stared at the picture of the survivors’ parade. Every single woman wore a bright pink t-shirt with a lighter pink ribbon on it, the word survivor under the ribbon. A few women wore pink wigs, and/or pink boas. One woman wore a boa/necklace/garland of paper pink ribbons of various sizes. I realize that if I thought such races/walks were a useful pursuit (I do not), if I called myself survivor (I don’t), if I embraced the Pink (I really, really don’t), I’d be in that survivors’ parade wearing that t-shirt. So why aren’t I?

It is strange how humans behave I guess, what we believe, what social groups we join. I just had a conversation the other day with a client about how people start to take on the beliefs of those they live near and interact with (we were discussing how both our parents were becoming more conservative and saying offensive things—obviously things they’ve heard from other folks they interact with now that they are out of the work force—very ugly stuff). But I wonder what made me reject all that Pink stuff that is the norm in my region. The others in the small support group I attended (for people diagnosed with any cancer under the age of 40) were mostly disdainful of Pink, a few loved it. But all the major breast cancer groups that organize and/or benefit from these events recite the Pink, stay positive script, which is why I avoid them.

I stared at the picture of the women in pink shirts on the cover. I cannot imagine loving any ribbon so much as to wear a garland of them. I looked at pictures further inside the paper—some women in pink pants and hats and…just covered in Pink! Fortunately, no panties and bras pulled on over bike shorts like that other beach event last year. But still.

In the years from diagnosis up until last spring, these pictures filled me with disgust. All I could think about was how Pink and the stay positive pressure had harmed me. (For those who’ve not read my other posts, in short—the Komen dogma of get your mammo for early detection did not work for me, and the be positive at all costs made me miserable until I figured out I’m Allowed to be however I wanted—it’s more complex, this is the Cliff Notes version.)

I’m a bit more detached now. It makes me a little sad I guess—I know my natural social awkwardness, and trait of playing devil’s advocate, or desire to go against the grain are a few of the reasons I do not join the Pink parades. I think it would be easier if I would just go with the flow, if I could. But I can’t.

Always questioning everything can really suck sometimes.

But in an uncharacteristic move from someone calling herself Cancer Curmudgeon, I take a moment to be grateful (no griping—what???). So what if I can’t walk in that Pink parade? I found other bloggers that have many similar opinions and I found solace there. I started—and continue—blogging to keep in contact. For one who does not make friends easily, I began to do just that. I even began to “friend” some on my personal Facebook—waaaay out my comfort zone. Too many bloggers and folks to list for fear of missing someone, which would mortify me if I left anyone out and offended in that way.

Sure the women in the pictures of the parade look like they’re having fun. But I’m having fun too. And I have peace. It may not seem like it when I go on rants or give in to the anxiety—but I do have it. Because I know others feel the same way. At some point a post about this value of what others would call “complaining”—and a ponder on that word—will be written. Right now it’s enough to know I’m not the only one.

“Walked out this morning
Don’t believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles
Washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone at being alone
A hundred billion casatways
Looking for a home”

“Message in a Bottle” by The Police

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Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

16 thoughts on “Looking At Pictures”

  1. I used to be part of the “pink celebrations” (Revlon to be exact) for a while (before my cancer) and right after I finished treatments I did a couple of walks for family members. But I must admit, I never felt right about the “celebrations.” Weird thing is, although we were all walking together, I often saw different behaviors among the different groups. Some would be yelling like crazy, “YAY, I kicked cancer’s a$$!” while others were more conservative and did not wear pink, myself included. I was never the type to celebrate any of this but I walked. And during my walk all I thought about were the people who weren’t alive anymore. I even cried during my walks, a lot. Maybe there is a bit of “guilt” there too. But also, how could I be celebrating when so many other women are dying? This year I did not walk. I am feeling weird about it now and I wish there were more activities geared toward Stage 4. I need to do some research about that. Would love to be part of it.

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  2. Yes, others feel the same way… and while we are often labelled with the strangest and incorrect descriptors, we know that we are often having fun… and finding peace, right along with you. Always questioning can suck, but I prefer to live in the land of reality. Mwah!

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  3. Peace… This is my word for this year (inspired by a Maya Angelou poem)….I agree with your post (the Pink rant), I do think progress is being made in some organizations to be more sensitive to the realities of bc mets… They need to change their messages now that research indicates mammograms do not affect survival and other confusing messages from the scientific community. The initial marketing challenge re fundraising was awareness of bc, now it’s got to change to saving lives, since the awareness message has saturated the target community (women)… Optimistic thoughts from a retired marketer. I’m grateful to the bc mets activists who seem to be making headway! If I had the energy to beat my head against that brick wall, I would…
    Best,
    Gail

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    1. Thanks Gail–yes, I could go on a huge rant about how awareness has mostly been achieved, and that the messages and actions need to evolve. One of the most frustrating things I hear is when someone points out that x years ago no one talked about BC and look at us now! Great, now let’s move on I want to say. Grrr. Anyway, thanks for commenting!!

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  4. As you may or may not know, I am coming up on my five year mark this week and I still find myself questioning and often going against the flow. I know the pink celebrations work for some people, but they aren’t for me either. I feel detached from that kind of thing too. I live in a different sort of cancer world, the world of cancer reality in my view. It brings me a lot of peace, too, to know I’m not alone in my feelings and views and it’s definitely one of the reasons I keep blogging and reading blogs even after five years. It’s nice to know you’re out there, CC.

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    1. Awww thanks! And as you know it–your blog was one of the first I found, that DID give me the peace I needed. It sucks we had cancer (yes I knew your 5 year mark is coming, mine will be here this Oct, bleh), but yeah, good to know you are out there too! Hugs!

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  5. Wonderful read!! I tried to be part of the Positive Pinkness…I didn’t know any better. And then I did. And I’m so glad, like you, to have found “friends” here in the blogging community. Some like minded, some not. But glad to count you as a friend. Even as I approach 6 years out, it is so helpful to know I can reach out to my blogger friends. So helpful. Super glad to know the CC! xx

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  6. We are the Grumblers for the Cure, my friend, and there are a lot more of us than the Pink Pushers would care to admit. xoxo, Kathi

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