I’ve decided not to wear pink for awhile.
When I attended my usual Monday workout class, I found the room awash in pink. The cardio session was put on hold while those wearing pink were invited to have their picture taken for publicity. Their names were entered into a drawing, and a few lucky winners took home T-shirts.
Some women who didn’t get the memo — or, in my case, had personal reasons for not wearing pink — were subjected to good-natured razzing about their lack of awareness.
As I waited for my class to begin, I started to wonder what all this had to do with cancer.
The front of the gym and the lobby are now covered in pink ribbons and messages about hope. The web site promises to make a donation to either breast cancer awareness or research, depending where you click.
The site forgets to mention what organization that donation will help to fund. When I called to ask — twice — no one knew the answer. The manager took my name and number and told me someone would get back to me with the details. I am still waiting for that call.
My experience at that gym exemplifies the problems I ran into while I worked on Think Pink! Well-meaning people wanted to do something to help out, and didn’t realize that there’s more to awareness than donning a color and having a party.
Before this month, it never crossed my mind to wear a color for a cause. I’ll throw on a pink blouse if that’s what’s clean. It’s not that, like some other women in my class, I didn’t get the memo on pink. It’s not that I’m unaware.
After watching my mom die of the disease and completing four issues of Think Pink!, I’m probably as aware as I can be unless I change my career or develop breast cancer myself.
My mom wasn’t a fan of pink — she preferred to wear bold reds — and anyone who knew her knew she wouldn’t change her ways just because someone else was doing it. I never heard her talk of survivors or modify a verb with the phrase “for the cure.”
When her sister died of ovarian cancer, it affected her deeply, but she wasn’t one to break out the teal and tell everyone that September was ovarian cancer awareness month.
I like to think that Sarah never bought into the cancer culture because she thought it would give the illness more power over her than it deserved. But it could be that she never even gave it any thought.
All I know is, she — and by extension, her daughters and son — were just as aware as everyone else. To me, the promise of a donation to research is more than just a set of words on top of my yogurt lid.
People’s experiences with cancer, and the choices they make about their illness, run an entire spectrum. Some people work through it in the conventional ways, and others don’t. It’s not that they’re trying to hide it, or in denial. That’s just the way they — and I — cope with it.
Next year, I hope to see more people thinking before they pressure or exclude someone for their refusal to demonstrate their awareness in the same way as everyone else.
Some of us don’t wear pink. We wear the colors of mourning or remembrance instead, and they are just as legitimate as any others.
Call Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.