Day 16 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge requires me to choose three pictures for my Pinterest board that best represent my health condition. I wish it were so, but I cannot separate from breast cancer its pinkness, hence the horribly pink noise of the first image. The second represents my adventure in social media. The breast cancer diagnosis launched me into another reality, where soon I learned of what lurked behind the pink ribbons and the races. Social media has connected me to others who are clamoring for a change in the conversation about breast cancer. It is changing my life in myriad ways while still I proceed the only way I know how. My way, with a nod to Anna Quindlen in my third picture:
1. “Sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of …”
There is no escaping the business of breast cancer that is awash in pink. For twenty years now, its elusive cure has been wrapped up in a pink ribbon that I used to regard with a mixture of indifference and denial. Breast cancer was the thing that happened to other people, to celebrities who grace the pages of magazines, to women who didn’t go show up for their mammograms. What a fool I’ve been – duped and manipulated by its mythology. It is jarring to associate with disease and death all the trappings of breast cancer awareness that have so innocently distracted me – ribbons and teddy bears and perfume bottles and cupcake liners. Such trinkets would not be out of place in a 19th century nursery rhyme about little girls, very far removed from the ravages of a disease that kills. Once I heard County Down writer, Damian Gorman, describe the bombs, bullets, “suspect devices” all too familiar in 1980s Northern Ireland as far less deadly than the “devices of detachment,” its people used to distance themselves from the violence. Aware of it, yet so removed. We were very good at “detachment,” as he says:
“I’ve come to point the finger
I’m rounding on my own
The decent cagey people
I count myself among …
We are like rows of idle hands
We are like lost or mislaid plans
We’re working under cover
We’re making in our homes
Devices of detachment
As dangerous as bombs.
Eerily familiar. I still don’t know why Susan G. Komen got cancer or how it could have been prevented. Ironically unaware, I have accepted the myth that we can find a cure without knowing the cause. I have bought all things pink without asking questions. Pink products that contain the very chemicals that might have caused the breast cancer that may progress to other parts of my body. Or not. An unacceptable uncertainty. As the saying goes, “when you know better, you do better … no more denial, no more detachment, “Think before you pink.”
2. Socializing about cancer
Shortly after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I tried to write my way out of it. I opened a WordPress account and began typing. I didn’t “publish” at first. I chose instead to save my drafts, not unlike the way I once locked up my teenage angst in a secret diary. Like breast cancer, the blogosphere was a foreign place, but unlike the insidious culture of the former, it offered clarity and transparency. At once apart and a part of a brave new world, I could be alone and connected, followed and follower, reader and writer. Social media is redefining the boundaries of my life along with the disease that has forever altered it.
3. Making my mark.