To most people, the colors of October are the typical fall hues. But to me, I see pink ribbons everywhere, emblazoned on everything from athletes’ uniforms to scrubs. Most of us just see the ribbons as a symbol of support for a good cause. For me, it’s a reminder of one of the most difficult time periods of my life.
I never thought I would have to worry about breast cancer. I didn’t have a family history, I never smoked, I had nursed all my children. In my reassurance, I had left the time between mammograms lapse, so when I found the lump in my breast in 2008, I wasn’t too worried. After ultrasounds, biopsies, and several doctor visits, I found that my careless attitude had cost me dearly: I had breast cancer.
I went through the rounds of doctors and tests to determine the best course of treatment and I found support groups to help me make these most important of decisions. I never had to be so informed about a decision before. Just the lingo was daunting, and it was hard to not let emotions get in the way. I opted for a mastectomy and a clinical trial to determine if chemo would work on my type of cancer. I was found to have stage II cancer and it had not spread to my lymph nodes. It was also determined that chemo would not be beneficial to me. After surgery, I would simply take a type of medication that would help prevent re-occurrence. I had dodged a bullet. I would have reconstructive surgery in 2011 and I passed my five-year mark this past March.
While I appreciate all the support for the cause every October, it’s also a sad reminder. I’m haunted by the faces and fates of people I met along the way. I discovered breast cancer does not discriminate, and pink ribbons represent each and every one of us. When you wear a pink ribbon we know that you support us and hope, like the rest of us, for a day when no one has to worry about this disease. It isn’t just a pink ribbon. It’s me, it’s a mom, a daughter, a friend, and it could be you.
So thank you for your support, and remember: If there is any one thing to learn in the month of October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month — it’s that we all must be diligent in detection. Don’t put off those mammograms!