Let There Be Cheerleaders

For the past few days, I’ve been trying to write a post about Sunday, but it’s October and I’m distracted.  Everywhere I turn I’m overwhelmed with pinkertising while not even looking for it.  But, there it is.  In my mailbox, in my supermarket (chicken sausage, anyone?), at my gym and even in the dentist’s chair adorning the paper bib used to soak up spit.  I was informed by the hygienist, these bibs were specially purchased to help raise awareness.

Oh, it’s working.  I’m totally aware.

My brother asked if I’m anti-pink.  Not exactly.  Like so many these days, I’m against what “pink” has come to represent. The happy-go-lucky, early stage, still having fun, never sick, all is right in the world, let’s get coffee with perfect hair and makeup, cancer survivor.  My skin prickles at this unrealistic vision created by major marketing machines.

All is not well in the land of breast cancer.  For if it were, there would be no need for last Sunday.

It’s been nearly thirty years since Nancy Brinker founded the Susan G. Komen organization and began work to end breast cancer.  In those years, Komen and other cancer organizations succeeded in shining a light on what was once a shameful, embarrassing, deadly disease.  A disease, no one dared speak of louder than a whisper.

How far they’ve come.  I can’t step outside my door, or power up my computer without being assaulted by a litany of companies all promising to aid in the fight.  All promising their donated dollars will put a stop to it.

The thing is, it hasn’t worked.  Thirty years, no cure and more questions than answers.  The promise most of us grew up with, has yet to come true.  We’re still being told we have breast cancer.  It’s that failure in finding a cure which inspired thousands of people on Sunday to turn out for a small organization, named Support Connection.

The crowd didn’t show to raise money for research.

They weren’t walking for education and awareness.

It wasn’t about the cure.

Their purpose was to acknowledge the remnants of unfulfilled promises — The people left in cancer’s wake. Those of us actually living with breast or ovarian cancer.  The day was simply a way of ensuring this organization would continue to provide its free support, information, counseling and hope through stories and experiences of women who had lived it.

That kind of help is sadly, still desperately in need.

All these years without answers created the urgency for such a place.  As the reign of breast cancer lingers, Support Connection exists for the approximate 200,000 women who annually find themselves newly diagnosed.  It exists for those with advanced stages of breast cancer, which continues to occur since no one has discovered how to stop Stage I from becoming Stage IV.

Without a cure, we are left to fend for ourselves, but if we’re lucky, we’ll find the support needed to heal…needed to just face our day.

It was a beautiful Sunday.  Many participants walked together as teams.  Many brought dogs. Cheerleading squads and local high school bands performed along the path and at first, I couldn’t understand why they were cheering.

This wasn’t a race.  No one was awarded a prize for finishing first.  We were here for each other.  That’s why they were cheering.  For the thousands of us, everywhere, directly affected by society’s failure to eradicate this disease.  We’re still dealing with cancer, everyday.  We live with it, die with it and carry each other along the way.

Many walkers wore signs claiming “In honor of” or “In memory of” some loved one.  Many were walking to commemorate their own triumphs.  I didn’t pin on any signs in the name of those I’ve lost.  I also didn’t walk for myself.  I walked for all the ladies and men I’ve never met who will one day hear the words, “You have cancer” and need a  place to turn. Support Connection provides that and with the generosity of donors, will continue to freely give services until they are no longer needed.  When the promises of all the pink finally, hopefully, one day come to fruition and breast cancer becomes a thing of the past.

Sorry, Support Connection, your doors will have to close.  Fundraising walks will go by the wayside and your toll-free hotline will quietly shut down, but those cheerleaders… They’ll really have something to yell about.  What a welcome sight that will be.