Ten years ago my mom was coming off a brutal summer of chemotherapy. On her 50th birthday she had a double mastectomy, followed by radiation, and then reconstruction. I was scared shitless. She is the woman who drives me batty with her obnoxious behavior and guilt trips, but she is my MOM. She is the one I want a hug from when the world is cruel.
Last summer she completed a triathlon with some fellow breast cancer survivors. The anti-cancer/anti-estrogen drugs she will be on for the rest of her life is destroying her joints. This summer she had both her hips replaced seven weeks apart. Ten years ago I never dreamed she would reach her 60th birthday. Not only is she alive, but she is thriving despite the odds against her.
October is breast cancer awareness month. Of course it now comes across as a giant eye roll. Of course we are aware. The pink wash is everywhere. Pink everything is for sale with minimal money going to actual beneficial research and treatment. I volunteered for years for a recognized organization, but left when I couldn’t stand their bully tactics and politics. It is disappointing to see that, but I am proud of the money raised and the grants that were issued for detection and treatment that saved lives. I would much rather live in a word with eye rolls now than continue losing so many beloved people to a mysterious, common, fatal disease where the two biggest risk factors are being a woman and getting older. The fact remains that people ARE still dying and families ARE still devastated. I still live in a world with the odds not in my favor. Eye rolls over the pink ribbon saturation do not change that, but now we are aware. We can instead fight back and demand better than simply awareness and pink washing across everything. We need fundraising accountability and better treatment outcomes.
I am one of the lucky ones. My mom is still here for her 60th birthday. Despite stage 4 metastatic cancer, despite lifesaving drugs that are also destroying her body, she is alive. She is doing so great she forgets her limitations – like buying a 70-pound pumpkin last week, with no way to get it OUT of her car when she got home. (She drove around with it in her backseat for a week. I find this highly amusing.) Don’t ask me what her fascination is with giant pumpkins. It has always been this way and seems to get greater each year. I hope she keeps having birthdays as I am happy to enable her pumpkin buying habits.