I didn't miss last weeks Spin Cycle, I promise. It started out with a great idea, that grew into a small project, that had another project tacked onto it, and became a boatload of work. But all the work is done, so I can spin it on up for you.
Do you remember the movie St Elmo's Fire? It was a Brat Pack film, straight out of 1985. Judd Nelson, (the incredibly hot) Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez? Remember the scene where one of the girls takes Billy home for dinner one night? And her mother, Myrna, spends half of the meal whispering behind her hand? Because there are things in this world just too horrible to speak aloud? One of the words she whispers is "Cancer".
Back in 1985, the Susan G. Komen Foundation was only 3 years old. It was still a local, grassroots effort, barely out of the gates. No one wore pink, there weren't big events all over the place to show support for people diagnosed with breast cancer. Your local coffee shop didn't donate a portion of the proceeds from your pink cup purchase to anyone with breast cancer.
What did happen was that people whispered behind their hands about you. At the market, at church, when you dropped your books at the library, or explained that you wouldn't be able to be a Girl Scout leader anymore. People weren't sure if it was contagious, or if there was anything they could or should do. Back in 1985, a diagnoses of cancer meant a lot of pain, and very little hope. There were support groups, but they were few and far between. Some women drove more than an hour to get to them. They told people it was a book club. Stores that sold wigs for people who lost their hair to chemo, or prosthesis for mastectomies, did so in back rooms, where a bald lady wouldn't scare off the regular customers. If you wanted a bathing suit, you could order one through your doctor's office.
The doctor's office was another special trip. There you were treated with the same kind of dignity afforded to any kind of lab rat. The doctors were very clear that almost everything they were trying was hit or miss (painful but honest). It might help, or it might kill you. Wait and see.
But the point of this post isn't to focus on how things were, it's to focus on how they are now. Thanks to the efforts of people like Nancy Brinker, Susan's sister. The people who stood up and said, "Stop the whisper campaign!" They speak up about cancer. What it is, who it effects, how it's treated. They make good and sure you know that 250,000 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and almost 40,000 will die from breast cancer this year. They make sure you know how to do a self exam, and that an early diagnosis can make all the difference. And they make sure you know how you can make a difference. Whether it's to run a marathon, donate time or money, or just to wear pink. To speak to someone you know has cancer to their face, not behind your hand.
This post is to thank all of the men and women who go to work each day (even Mondays) and say, "Today just might be the day we find a cure to cancer." It's tireless work. It's disappointing work. It's fruitful work, though. I want to believe that each day we do get closer to the cure.
This post is for all the people out there right now fighting all kinds of cancer. The tired, the scared, the hopeful, and those in need of a little hope. Know that you're not alone. We're here to fight with you. We put our pink ribbons on our shirts, on our cars and we buy the specially marked products. We visit your cube to ask how it's going, and we take your kids to soccer when you're just not up for it (and we take pictures). We give your kids a place to hang out when being at home is just a little to much for a kid to handle (and we don't try to force them to talk about their feelings). We know you want to be out there, doing all the things everyone else does. And you will again. With our help.
If you've been wondering who the lovely brunette in all the pictures is, it's my Mom. At the Bronx Zoo, camping with the girl scouts and at Disney with the family (in one inch heels!!) In her backyard in the Bronx, at my cousin John's wedding and hanging out with me and my Grandpa. This post isn't in memory of her, or all the great things she did. It's not about how she suffered, or lost her battle. There is no point in that. If you spend your days looking back, you don't move forward. We need to use the past to make the future the place we want it to be. The place my Mom wanted it to be for me, and for you, and for our kids. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss my Mom, but there's not a darn thing any one of us can do about that.
This post is about how today, almost 20 years after my Mom has passed away, there isn't just a day, or a week devoted to Breast Cancer Awareness. There is a whole month. It's to show you how far we've come, and how far we still need to go. But we're getting there. Together.