I never thought much about the pink ribbons that came out each fall until I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I feel extremely fortunate that my minor skirmish with the disease involved only some radiation treatments that made me a little sore, but kept my dignity intact.
Once you have that diagnosis it follows you along with your medical records. You are labeled. I have not shrunk away from the designation, but have embraced it as a positive thing in that I was one of the lucky ones. My tumor was found early, and it was very small. My prognosis for a productive life is good.
Many other women are not as fortunate. Breast cancer affects mostly women world-wide, but it can also occur in men.
Ann R. Swanson
As I watched the various NFL football games last Sunday, I noted with interest the emphasis on the color pink. The officials wore pink ribbons and bands. The football players wore pink shoes, pink ribbons, pink armbands and hats with the pink ribbon symbol. There were even pink terrible towels being waved. The advertisement noted that after the month of October is finished the pink attire worn by the coaches and players will be auctioned off for charity. Research told me that the NFL is in partnership with the American Cancer Society in a campaign known as "A Critical Catch." The auction will benefit the American Cancer Society's Community Health Advocate's National Grants for Empowerment (CHANGE) program.
There are few households these days that have not experienced a brush with cancer be it breast cancer or another type. My experience put me on notice that it can happen to anybody. When a diagnosis of cancer is given it affects the entire family. The person diagnosed will need all of the support that he/she can get. The person will require transportation for treatment as well as help with home chores while they are energy depleted. Cancer is a roller coaster ride with highs and lows occurring over and over. Life as the person knew it is changed at least for a time. He/she needs emotional support and spiritual help as well.
I looked up the idea of the pink ribbons. It is the symbol used for the internationally operating charity raising money for breast cancer patients and breast cancer research. In 1991 the Susan G. Komen Foundation handed out pink ribbons to participants in its New York City race to raise funding for cancer research.
By 1992 the pink ribbon was designated as the official symbol of the National Breast Cancer Awareness campaign.
Although the initiative began in New York City it has spread world-wide. There are organizations in China, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Brazil, Japan, Hungary, Mexico and New Zealand to mention just a few of them. The listing indicates the wide range this campaign covers.
In just over 20 years the research on breast cancer has expanded. New cures are on the horizon as I write this. Women who received a death sentence in years past now enjoy life as they work through the disease that can be so debilitating. I knew when I received my diagnosis that this was a type of cancer where research dollars had paid off.
Each birthday is a milestone. It indicates that another year has passed, and I am still here and still healthy. Life is a series of milestones. I look back on my memories fondly. Now my memories are pre-cancer diagnosis versus post-cancer treatment. I treasure each and every experience that comes my way.
I was one of the lucky ones. I consider that my cue to give back what I can. I pay it forward as I minister to others in any capacity that comes my way. Not all of my experiences come from my diagnosis. Many opportunities have come my way because of the journey that I experienced with my husband during his illness and passing. I do not take the designation widow lightly. The experiences that I have had made me a stronger, more compassionate person. I have interacted with many widows and widowers who are trying to find their way back to a life of productivity.
Everyone grieves differently, but there are some experiences we all go through. If I can be of help to someone I am more than willing to share my experiences and triumphs. My newest book is my testimony about the first year on my own. It was a bittersweet year with many learning experiences. Finding my way back was not an easy thing. I cried. I laughed. I survived.
My wish for anyone touched by cancer is that they find their inner strength and push forward. My hope is that they really embrace the journey as a learning experience. God bless you all!
Here's to all of the cancer survivors and their families. Make the most of whatever time you have left.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.