Hey Pink Noise—Please Stay In the Background

It’s not that I really thought I could totally avoid Pinktober and its smorgasbord of hellish delights. It’s just that—EVERYthing is happening SO MUCH right now. I kinda thought the bits that broke through would not interfere with my busy life. It would be like background noise—when someone is playing music you dislike so you mentally push it back there. But no.

I mean, as an American liberal #resistance person, I’m going crazy right now. I’ve spent the past 2 or 3 years completely overwhelmed, but it is noticeably worse lately. Remember after 9/11 when the news networks constantly had that threat thermometer thingie on every day, and it was usually “high”? I’ve been at orangeish-red for a long while now. But these days, it’s fire engine red.

Not everything is bad of course. No one has ever accused me of being an optimist, but there are GOOD things happening, things I like. I can’t wait for the “Zombieland” sequel, the “Mr. Robot” final season, the “Breaking Bad” movie. Of course, there is always Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations in October, which have often been a source of solace for me in these post-treatment years, when the Pink menace was just too much (even in my white-hot angry era 2012-2015). And of course, most readers here know I’d like to crown myself the Queen of Halloween. I’m getting ready to watch “Hocus Pocus” in a little while as I write this first draft!

So, with all these things I’ve just listed, it would seem that I would not, could not possibly, notice Pink Shit. Oh, but I have.

ribbonIt sort of erupted the other day in Walmart (where else?) upon seeing all this pink craft ribbon right there next to the Halloween craft ribbon! Like it was just part and parcel of October, that pink crap somehow belongs in the costume aisle. NO NO NO! Then there were the pink feather flags at the outlet malls. The ads in the paper. The electronic billboards and store marquees. The ad on local news, in which a local car dealership always, ALWAYS, gives prospective customers a pink frog for “breast cancer awareness”, they cheerfully intone (the frog is their mascot, don’t ask why). And then today, driving through a small resort township that is known for being the party section adjacent to Rehoboth Beach, DE, a large inflatable pink ribbon was being erected. “Ugh, the Race,” I thought. Yeah, it’s actually next weekend, guess they just want it up early. Guess who won’t drive through that area again? Picking up party decorations minutes later,  I saw the store featured plenty of pink ribbon themed shit. As I left, I noticed two honeycomb 2-D discs in the window—pale peach with pink centers—to indicate “titties”. Because only white woman booby cancer counts, amirite?  (first time readers of me—I’m pretty sarcastic, not sorry.)

Fortunately, I was too busy fighting a gust a wind and a plethora of helium balloons to take time to puke.

I guess it was that last thing there that lit a fire under my butt to sit and write this. Even in my haphazard avoidance, I still got the full spectrum of this month: the symbols and lip service to “courage”, to “awareness”, and then finally, the part where some places just skip over all that and use the month to celebrate the sexual angle. I look at my ugly, cancer impacted body—the aging, the weight gain, the brittleness—and that angle hits me harder every year. I ran across a photo of my pre-tattooed scar on Facebook, a pic that got removed from Tumblr (Have you ever been on Tumblr? Have you seen the porn? I mean, really? My nipple-less breast got removed? It did get re-instated after I appealed, but good grief).

It continues to shock me how very little UNDERSTANDING of this disease there is amid all this so-called “awareness”.

It’s not this simple plan everyone seems to think: have a race to promote early detection as an ultimate savior, some lovely young thing (because who gives a damn about the “olds”, the average age woman to get BC—is that still 62? I’m too lazy to research it) who “catches it early”, and all is well, no consequences.

Oh no, honey, there ARE consequences. And they are not appealing in mass culture. It doesn’t matter if the surgeon and all the other docs on the “team” ooh and ahh about the neatness of the scar, how well it healed (true story). They think it’s dandy. Race promoters do not.

Sigh, once again, I ramble on. There is not much left to say other than—I’ve said all of this before (see old posts here). I know this is still fresh for so many. For me, it’s stale but I’m still pissed off—maybe a little less so at certain aspects. I’m less likely to start screaming at other BC patients who do the “good vibes only” route. I don’t like being criticized for how I “did cancer”, therefore, I should lay off how others do it. I just don’t want people to get it twisted and think the rage of this ummm, segment of the community, and the mets segment of the community, is the dominant narrative. If that were so, I wouldn’t have to see the effen sights I put up with today. All the stuff I saw today is why many of us are still saying what we are saying. It isn’t just anger—it’s facts and truth. If these realities were more widespread and accepted—I wouldn’t see my friends on social media so upset. I wouldn’t be writing this.

And that’s the core of it for me really. All this anger I had, still have, all the words I’ve written, that so many of my friends wrote, not much has changed.

Am I wrong?

#StillPissed #JustQuieter #ButStillTryingMyBest

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