Cancer Lesson #25: The Wearing of the Pink
I’m not a high-heels-and-ruffles girly-girl, so when my daughter was young, I refused to dress her in pink. To me, this custom sent the wrong message. “To be a real girl,” it seemed to say, “you have to wear pink and play with dolls.”
I didn’t want to foist those expectations upon her, and even as an adult, I rarely wore pink myself.
Thus, it felt strange at first to be associated with the “Pink Ribbon Disease,” especially when people began leaping to the conclusion that any pink clothing I wore was meant to remind them of breast cancer.
That wasn’t the case, at least not at first.
Later, after I lost my hair, I often wore pink as a kind of shorthand for “Yes, I’m temporarily bald because I’m in chemo for breast cancer.” It staved off a lot of questions.
By then, I had learned wearing pink can be demonstration of love.
As a cancer patient – and it took some time to adjust to being in that category – I was stunned by the outpouring of friendship I received, often when I least expected it.
“The Wearing of the Pink” was one of those times.
A little background first. When I got cancer, I was in the process of changing jobs. At my request, the library’s administration had agreed to allow me to step down from management back into front-line librarianship. This decision was made about a week before my diagnosis.
Yeah, I know. Pretty fortuitous for all of us.
Anyway, just before my medical leave began, my staff asked me to make sure I was in the branch at a certain time. I agreed, figuring they’d planned a little send-off involving cake, a card, and perhaps some balloons.
What they did was so much more meaningful.
Everyone in the building, including the men, wore pink ribbons, and most were dressed in shades of the color.
The memory still brings tears to my eyes.
There wasn’t one cake; there were three – four if you count the cheesecake – and in my book, cheesecake always counts. Plus enough food to have fed the horde of teens that normally descends on the library after school. Oh, and there were cookies and brownies (York Peppermint ones!) for those who didn’t care for cake. Margaritas too – the virgin version, alas (after all, this was in a public library) – served in real Margarita glasses.
I was staggered. Literally overwhelmed. My co-workers’ outpouring of support, on top of all the cards, emails, prayers, positive Reiki energy and other forms of good karma I’d received, made me suddenly so tired that I had to sit down.
I needed a nap, and when I went home – having tasted all the cakes, cookies and brownies – I had one. I slumbered deep, with a sense of gratitude permeating every pore. How blessed I was (and still am) to have such friends and co-workers, how fortunate to have had my husband, daughter and family as I approached the challenge of cancer.
Nothing I can do or say could ever adequately express my appreciation. So I will say again, as I did then, “Thank you” to everyone who was there for my family and me.
You know who you are.
Addendum: There are legitimate arguments about the way pink has been used to market breast cancer support and research, and about the way some companies have appropriated the color to make money. This posting, however, is not about buying a t-shirt or running in a race, it’s about how my friends who adopted a well-known symbol to support me when I was in treatment.