The Breast Health Center waiting room was just as expected with outdated magazines about Easter décor, the June 18th edition of People, and two year old ideas for how to renovate your kitchen. I looked around at the other women and realized we all spanned about forty years in age. Some looked more anxious than others. Some had well styled hair of their own. Some wore brightly colored scarves and big earrings. One was rocking her glowing, perfectly shaped, bald head. One was knitting furiously as if her fast fingers were releasing all of the anxiety in the room. All with different histories. All hoping for a bright future. All tired of waiting for the experts who were running late, yet hoping that said experts will spend as much time as needed answering any potential questions.
Amid the outdated reading materials were splashes of pink ribbons. It was a tasteful spread, as opposed to one of spreads I saw recently where it looked like a pink piñata exploded. Now, I appreciate Breast Cancer Awareness Month as much as anyone, and every year I intentionally contribute to a pink fundraiser to raise awareness and fund research efforts. I have nothing against Breast Cancer Awareness Month or the color pink. I simply wish breast cancer lasted only one month.
I wish the process of breast cancer was this: receive diagnosis, get that tumor the heck out, grab a cocktail or two at the chemo bar, radiate a bit, maybe even pop a few hormone pills, and be done with it. 31 days. Done. I wish this for all cancers, by the way, it’s just that it’s October, so, you know, context. But no cancer should get to control more than one month of anyone’s life. (It really shouldn’t even get a month, but until there’s a cure, I’m trying to be realistic in my debates with it.)
As someone very aware of breast cancer every month, heck, every day, (see Mother’s Day post) I was thinking about what my contribution would be this October when I decided I would buy another woman a mammogram. As I opened one of my favorite fundraiser apps on my iPhone (what did we ever do in outdated waiting rooms before smart phones?) a nurse called the name of the woman sitting to my left. And that’s when it hit me, “Why bother donating through an app when I can buy a mammogram for someone in this very room?”
So at the check-out-next-appointment-get-your-parking-validated-counter, as the cashiers asked each of us for our insurance co-pays, I handed the cashier my debit card and said, “Add her co-pay amount to mine, please.” That’s right, I contributed to Breast Cancer Awareness Month Joey Tribbiani “How you doin’?” lame pick up line style. The other woman looked at me, much like one looks at the stranger at the bar who just sent over a martini and asked, “Do I know you?” I replied, “Nope, and I don’t know if you’re here for a routine screening or you’re already too many Octobers in, but we’re all in this together until there’s a cure.”
The cashiers looked at us like the friends at the other end of the bar who have no idea what just happened. I don’t really blame them and I’m ok with the weird looks. Because sometimes you just gotta pick up the tab and make your own Octoberfest fun at the Breast Health Tavern. And then raise a glass to the day cancers will no longer be assigned ribbon colors and designated awareness months because they no longer exist.
Here’s to the loved ones we miss, the loved ones who live with cancer every day, the loved ones who celebrate remission, and the hope that our children will never know anything about being members of any Cancer Club. Here’s to the cure and here’s to kicking cancer in the coccyx!