Boys in Pink Tee Shirts

Before I became a pledge in The Shittiest Sorority, the Pepto Bismol dipped month of October didn’t make much of an impression on me. Plus, pink is the principal color in my closet, so I was happy to buy an umbrella or vacuum cleaner in rosy hues. But for those who have spent a year (or lifetime for metsters) preoccupied with mutilating surgery and poisons, wigs and neuropathies, PTSD and depression, that pink ribbon-emblazoned hosiery egg becomes irritating and dismissive. Control Top for the Cure in nude and suntan!

Pinked-up products are like that girl in high school who does a happy, drunken jig to The Love Cats, but cannot name a single song on any of the B sides. She likes The Cure because The Love Cats is upbeat and silly and ba dum dum dum dum dum BAH da da da da da! The peppy cheerleader doesn’t know The Cure, though. Don’t pretend to understand the tortured genius that is Robert Smith. That’s what we’re like in October. We’re eye-rolling goth girls and YOU DON’T GET IT. We’re barely tolerating your cheery enthusiasm and goofball Facebook status jokes (“no TP, goodbye socks” isn’t saving lives, y’all.) The #FuckCancer slogan, though– that one we can wave a foam finger for.

This month, my favorite gals in the blogging world are posting under a common theme: #BreastCancerRealityCheck. This hashtag is our clubhouse—a place to vent about the realities of breast cancer treatment as our social media feeds fill with well meaning, but miss-the-mark slogans and fundraisers or complete inanity (Save the Ta-tas, No Bra Day). A brief scroll through these tweets will immediately acquaint the un-cancered with the uglier side of the disease, and explain why your friend who you assumed was “cured” gets a bit bitchy in October.

Bernie, who is sometimes nicer than I am, says people should not be criticized for good intentions. I will never Walk for the Cure—I’ve given quite enough, thank you. Plus, cardio, so yuck. But today, both of my kids did that… for me. I think. I’m not sure. Teddy chose crossing the Smoot Bridge over the first performance with his choir. Brodie skipped the second tryout for travel basketball in favor walking all over Boston in the rain. Maybe they just wanted to ditch Church to hatch Pokémon eggs downtown. I’ll never know. But last night, their bedroom looked like this:


and I gave them the benefit of the doubt. The only other time they have laid out clothes in anticipation of an event, we were going to watch the Red Sox in the World Series.

Thing is, Bernie and I can never underestimate how Breast Cancer has affected our boys. For nearly 5 years, they have been the kids at school whose Mom Had Cancer. It certainly doesn’t define them. But when other moms join The Shittiest Sorority, mine naturally become the go-to pals for information, possibly support. Two years ago, Teddy told me that a school friend’s mom “… has breast cancer, and probably is going to die.” Ooof. I reached out to her not only to offer help and a sympathetic ear, but also to be able to change that narrative for my own kid.

The boys understand that Breast Cancer Awareness is unnecessary—everyone is aware. They know there is no remission, that there is no cure, and also that many moms don’t die (but that some do). Why did they want to do the Breast Cancer Walk today? Not sure. Last night Bernie and I watched Deadpool, and I cannot stop thinking about this quote:

“The worst part about cancer isn’t what it does to you, but what it does to everyone else in your life.”

Some of these Pink Things aren’t really about us, at all. Instead, they give the people who love us an opportunity to do… something. If that something raises even the teensiest bit of money for metastatic disease research, that’s even better. At year five I feel less back-lashy about the Pinking of October, possibly because I know I have my sisters at #BreastCancerRealityCheck who will virtually high five my snarky aggravation with pink urinal cakes, Dill Pickles for the Cure, or silly slogans about boobies that insult the very people who no longer have them. (So, maybe still a bit back-lashy.)

But to all who gathered together in the rain to walk the city in support of people like me: THANK YOU. Thank you for raising money and caring and being silly and wonderful. This is what my boys need to see in the world: a bit of pink-drenched proof of generosity, encouragement, and love. And to my Shitty Sorority Sisters, hang in there. Only 29 more days…









19 responses

  1. I loved reading this. I have had many of the same thoughts about diabetes walks/rides/fundraisers and they don’t even involve pink. You’re probably right, it gives everyone an chance to do something, express that they care. And, pink urinal cakes probably deserve some snarky aggravation.

    • Some pink things are truly ridiculous. Probably every disease gets co-opted by well meaning people who ultimately annoy or offend. When we live with the disease– as you guys do, daily, finger pricks and all– we have the right to be snarky. This year I’m trying to be kinder, too.

  2. We get it and I pray for this terrible disease to never visit any of my loved ones again… I also pray for a genius researcher to say to us all – Eureka! We know how to prevent AND cure and no one ever need suffer again.
    Until then all we can do is be thankful we have you with us still, count you as family, and be reminded by your gift of language how grace and humor and the support of your Shitty Sorority Sisters keep you positive and able to greet the next hurdles.
    You have taught so many of us so much. Keep writing for us, please.

    • I can only imagine this is Marilyn… or if not, it’s one of my favorite prayer warriors still reading this drivel after 5 years and still typing sweet things. xoxo

  3. I flinch in April when blue lights and puzzle pieces litter social media and store fronts, but you’re right, loved one’s and well-meaning strangers need an action to channel their support. I love that your boys chose to suit up in pink; more importantly, I love that they have turned a difficult experience into a meaningful gesture of empathy for others.

  4. On behalf of @barbieslosingit, @bccww, and @abcdiagnosis and myself, thank you! We created the hashtag over a weekend of crazy tweets back and forth–after I’d tweeted or re-posted and old blog post of mine called How About a What Cancer Does to Breasts Day? (In reaction to people being outraged over Rebecca Wilkinson’s Facebook post, smh.)
    The idea was to get as many people as possible to use #BreastCancerRealityCheck on Oct 1, maybe get it trending or at least noticed (we did, we attracted some co-opting from the pink-y exploitation things too). We are so glad to see the hashtag take off! Hopefully people will continue to use it to put the REAL truth out there–the one the media and feel good stories continues to ignore.

  5. Pingback: Weekly Round Up: Keeping It Real | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  6. Pingback: Because a stranger called me a prostitute | Blooms and Bubbles

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