The Cancer Color of October Is …

The Cancer Color of October is … not always PINK.

SONY DSC

It is October, and pink predominates pretty much everything because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is important to me because I am the daughter of a survivor and have seen countless friends, acquaintances, and fellow humans (women and men) be diagnosed with this disease. Some are (blessedly) still alive and thriving; others have passed away. As a woman, I face a 1:8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in my life. Therefore, for selfish reasons research should be supported. However not all “pink” is effective “pink,” and there are many other causes out there of which we need to be aware and for which we need to take action.

When Pink Makes Me See Red

I am wearing a lot of pink this month, and having been a multiple-year captain at Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, I am in full support of many efforts to raise awareness of breast cancer and fundraise toward support and research. Here in Tallahassee, October 2014 is fully in pink bloom, with many of our city’s leaders and brightest lights leading the way. However, it is important to know that not every product robed in pink does much good and to make well-educated purchasing decisions.

When Pink Has Gray Areas

It is also important to respect the connotations all that pink carries for people currently dealing with breast cancer, either for themselves or a relative. Sarah Thebarge writes eloquently of the evolution of her feelings about pink as a color representing breast cancer here.  She also wrote a superbly useful list of 31 Ways to Help a Friend Who Has Breast Cancer (visit it here) which goes beyond wearing pink.

But Paula You Said This Post Wasn’t Just About Breast Cancer!

It’s not. I want to encourage you to add some “blue” to your October observances (I know, now it’s feeling baby shower-ish up in here, isn’t it?). My friend and former coach, Jeff Kline, has stage 4 prostate cancer.

jeff running

Jeff Kline of PRS Fit

Jeff has devoted October to running across the United States with a goal of motivating men to get screened (his point is that if he had done a simple screening a few years ago, his cancer would have been caught at a time when treatment would have been simpler and the prognosis would have been much more hopeful). One of Jeff’s initial blogs about his diagnosis and decision to run cross country is here. Jeff and a team of supporters are running the Marine Corps Marathon on October 26, 2014, to raise funds for ZERO (an organization dedicated to ending prostate cancer).

M2EPC

In support, I will be participating in a virtual half marathon on Saturday, October 25, 2014. It occurred to me one day that the drive from my house to my favorite traffic light, The Optimism Light, is roughly half of a half marathon, so my route will either begin or end at the O.L. to symbolize optimism that men will commit to getting themselves screened so they can be around for their families and friends for a long, long time. (Early detection can involve a simple blood test. Read more about detection options here or visit this site to donate.)

Got it: PINK, BLUE, and … GRAY?

I have had this “pink and blue” post planned for weeks. One individual’s story presented itself to me via friends, though, and it is important (and time sensitive) to add it here. Andy Nichols is the brother-in-law of a friend (as she puts it “the brother of my heart.”). Andy has an aggressive glioblastoma brain tumor, which is in the same family of brain tumors as the one my friend Dustin had. When I learned that Poplar Head Baptist Church is holding a 5K race in Blountstown on October 11 in Andy’s honor (to help with expenses not covered by insurance as well as raise awareness), and that his friends wanted help getting the word out and generating as much participation as possible, I knew in a heartbeat that I would be heading west that day. If you are here in North Florida, please consider coming over to Blountstown and participating in the race. You can register via this link.

Andy and his family chose the "I have hope" phrase to symbolize hope for a cure for ALL forms of cancer, not only brain cancer.

Andy and his family chose the “I have hope” phrase to symbolize hope for a cure for ALL forms of cancer, not only brain cancer.

If you are not able to participate in the 5K or mile Fun Run, but would like to show your support by purchasing a t-shirt, sponsoring the event, or making a donation, you can contact Tiffany Nichols at run4andy@gmail.com or Clint White at 850-643-8584.

So Many Causes … Where Do I Go From Here?

I wish I knew! I have only scratched the surface, with a bias toward the fact that it’s October, that my mom (pictured in this post with a pink bird of hope) is a breast cancer survivor, that Jeff is running across the country to encourage men to get screened for prostate cancer, and that Andy and his family need our support on October 11. My friend Mary Jane, a multiple myeloma survivor, is organizing a team for the NYC Half Marathon in March via Team in Training so you’ll be hearing about that, for sure. As to “where do I go from here?”

cancer colors

This graphic is from www.crochetforcancer.org.

In a sea of choices, the best recommendation I can make is the same one I would make if you were drowning in a literal sea: clear your head, get your bearings, look for the surface, orient yourself toward the shore, and take action. Your action may be donating funds, running in a race, running for a cause (hello, Charity Miles and Stand Up 2 Cancer!), or simply telling someone who has cancer “I am here for you” or asking their family what you can do to help.

Whatever you choose, don’t for a minute let yourself believe that your contribution is too small or won’t matter.

My mom, Jeff, and Andy would surely feel differently …

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

13 thoughts on “The Cancer Color of October Is …

  1. I live with a cancer researcher (mesothelioma and lung cancer). He is motivated every day of every month. He lost his mother to pancreatic cancer and his father was a renal cancer survivor. In the end, it’s about the work, but the colors help fund that.

  2. Thank you for such a thoughtful and important post. This year I lost my dear aunt and my old roommate to breast cancer. But I have also seen so many people in my life touched by other cancers. Sending good thoughts to your friend. 🙂

    • I am sorry about your aunt and your former roommate. Something a friend of mine did as she was going through treatment was to take me to radiation with her (she took a different person every time). Ostensibly it was for support (and I hope she felt supported) but I learned so much from seeing the details of the treatment — having your body treated like a “thing” as opposed to a “you” even by the most compassionate workers left a huge impression with me. Thanks for the good thoughts for my friend!

  3. A great post! Breast cancer and prostate cancer are almost twins. Early detection is key to survival. As a 12 year breast cancer survivor I have been in several clinical trials and studies. The best one was an exercise study with breast cancer women and prostate cancer men. Taking the stigma out of cancers and talking about them and how you can help yourself and those you love is what October is all about!

  4. Great post. There are so many cancers that affect all of us and our loved ones. I wish we were closer to a cure for all of them. I didn’t know there were that many different ribbons, that’s a great graphic. Thanks for sharing the importance of all cancer research!

    • Thank you, Claudia. I really felt like I had only scratched the surface … but I guess you can’t cover everything in one post or it would be a million words long! My dear little friend Lauren and another little (very) friend both have pediatric cancers — they could use everyone’s prayers and good wishes too! I do like this graphic — it’s helpful. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Cancer is a cause very near and dear to my heart because I’ve watched my husband’s family be desecrated by Cancer. There were 12 children and their parents only 5 including my husband has survived. Three died last year alone the youngest being 41. So I support all of these wonderful causes. This year I am supporting Alzheimer’s for some reason they chose October also for their WALK TO END ALZHEIMER’S. I run the website http://www.thediaryofanalzheimerscaregiver.com . I take care of my mom who has Alzheimer’s. I wish I could get behind all of these causes and I do in little ways. They are all inspiring so good luck and God Bless whatever cause you stand for. At least you are standing for something that’s the important thing.

    • Rena, thank you for your comment. Cancer definitely desecrates …. I am sorry for all of the losses in your family. I will think of you as you deal with your mom’s Alzheimer’s (and I’ll visit the site!). Of course this is important too …. one of the Charity Miles causes is the Alzheimers Association — I run for them occasionally (like in June on “The Longest Day”). My FIL is living with us and although he doesn’t have Alzheimers some of his short term memory issues surely give me a tiny tiny window into the challenges you must face. Thank you for commenting and sending much support your way.

  6. Thanks for your post. I am a 2x cancer survivor and I’m only 41. I had no family history, in fast the hospital where I was genetically tested told me it was a “fluke” that I got got cancer. So, I find it important for everyone to not only know the facts around early detection (which is learned through awareness campaigns), but also support researchers as they work towards finding better treatments and a potential cure. Thanks for sharing the message. Sending my best to you and your family.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Your points are all extremely true. Wishing you much health and happiness in the future.

  7. Pingback: The Cancer Color of October is ... (2015 Version) - PerspicacityPerspicacity

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