During the month of October, it seems as though the world turns pink. Pinker than Valentine’s Day, Easter, and an explosion of Pepto Bismol all rolled into one. You can’t escape it, because it is literally everywhere. There are pink scarves, candles, bracelets, perfume bottles, balloons, pet toys, candy, cookies, and even men’s ties. A visitor from a far-off land could easily believe that we Americans are celebrating some sort of candy-colored holiday ritual – after all, Breast Cancer Awareness Month seems bigger and more commercial than Halloween these days. Forget the costume – just wear a pink ribbon. It’s the thing to do. It’s fashionable, like a Kabbalah bracelet or a tiny dog that fits in your purse.
I can’t wear a ribbon or a bracelet this year, nor can I pull on my walking shoes and Race for the Cure. I did my bit and wrote a check, but even that task felt Herculean to me. One year ago – just four days before the end of October and the “Siege of the Pink” – I lost my best friend to breast cancer. She had been cancer-free for five years. We celebrated with a trip to Paris. On our last night, she complained of feeling queasy, but chalked it up to medication, and ignored it. Eight weeks later, the doctors discovered lesions on her liver. Ten weeks later, quickly and quietly, she was gone.
I believe that there are some losses so large that a part of us literally goes with them. I often have the sensation that I am actually – physically – missing a part of myself that will never grow back. As the months have passed, this feeling has intensified. And now, as the sea of pink threatens to overtake me, I feel like I am drowning.
I know I am not alone in this feeling. Tragically, there are too many friends, sisters, parents, and others in this category. Too many who have lost the person who knows their secrets, makes them laugh the hardest, and is there for them no matter what. Too many who have watched those they love the most fight – and lose – the greatest battle of their lives. Too many who will now never look at the color pink the same way again.
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