It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month again and all around is what my family and I lovingly call the pinkification of October. Juxtaposed between store aisles filled with skeletons and Skittles are pretty pink ribbons, cups and teddy bears – not to mention pink packaging from toilet paper to my favorite yogurt. Which I confess – my first of many – that I stay away from for awhile, because who wants their “issue” staring back at them at 7:00 in the morning?
That’s what awareness means, “having concern, consciousness or a well-informed interest in an issue or cause.” Hey, I’m all in for people having an interest in Breast Cancer. I lost my Mom to it and worry about my daughter’s future with it. I have little chance of forgetting how it changed my own life every time I hastily pull a shirt over my chest to avoid seeing two lines where my breasts once resided. (Confession number two: the truth about these things, whether cancer, autism or any other “cause” can be messy, complicated, and the antithesis of a feel-good sound bite.)
Yes, millions of dollars are raised during these awareness months for focused causes. That’s great! But the awareness part can sometimes get lost in the entertaining events – just taking a walk, let alone a short run, down a public sidewalk can be a huge challenge for so many! These complicated struggles can be too easily reduced to a pretty ribbon or a puzzle piece. The thought that something I privately battle, that has robbed my family in so many ways, has been turned into a commercialized jump-on-the-bandwagon PR campaign makes me wonder if we could be doing something better. Like actually taking the time in our daily activities to acknowledge that most of us could be wearing (or hiding) a colored ribbon every day of our lives. (Confession number three: I chickened out of getting a pink ribbon tattoo where I had chemo, mainly because I am sometimes afraid of letting people know that I had cancer.)
So what’s more important than a thousand colored ribbons? Action. The kindness and compassion we can show each other when we open a door for a struggling walker. The extra bit of patience we can willingly give as a parent crosses the street with a special needs child. The conscious decision to go through the day being open to the needs around us and, for a second or two, purposefully focusing on supporting another human being.
Which brings me to my final confession: I sometimes forget how often a stranger’s kindness helped me through a bad day when I get too busy, impatient and lose focus. Thankfully, I have about 30 days a month to try it again.
Karen Sadler, M.Ed., LBS I
Note about the author: Karen is a five year breast cancer survivor, wife, and mother of two amazing young women who get regular screening. She currently provides in-home ABA therapy and taught for over 20 years within general and special education.