When Maren was five, I was at a shoe store with NanaRoz, toddler Greta, and Maren. Since Greta never agreed to stay seated in the stroller unless the stroller was moving very rapidly, I was doing speedy laps around the store while NanaRoz and Maren selected a new pair of shoes. Maren picked out the perfect pair of shoes and I left them at the counter while I did another lap. By the time I circled around again, the two of them were rooting through a bin of shoe charms to decorate the soon-to-be-purchased new shoes. Grandmothers, right? Maren and Greta are blessed to have two of the best grandmothers on the planet.
Maren emerged with two charms: one I no longer remember, and the other, a pink ribbon. She beamed up at me, “A pink ribbon Mom. For you.”
My heart melted and I was touched at the sweetness of my daughter that she chose a charm to represent her mama. The fact that it was a pink ribbon and all of the political and social implications it has was irrelevant to me. I focused on the heart of my daughter. She chose the pink ribbon that day to say: “I love you. You matter. I carry you with me.”
That is pretty much the feeling I choose to carry with me during this month of Pinktober. I see the pink and I choose to see the goodness: that my cancer is a “popular” cancer that receives more funding than other lesser-known cancers, people wearing pink honor of me and my disease, and fundraising taking place that (I hope) will directly and positively impact my lifespan.
That, I believe, is the heart of the pink ribbon movement. As with all things, it is abused by some, misunderstood by others, and also empowering and endearing. We all see it through our own lens.
There are a lot of people and organizations who are up in arms about the problems with the pink movement: the way that pink ribbons are used to sell for profit and not for charity, the minimal funding directed specifically to StageIV/metastatic/terminal disease, and the mis-education of awareness and early detection as the focal points of the campaigns. It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that I am not up in arms about this, but neither am I buying anything pink this month without researching that there is a benefit to an actual breast cancer person. I tread a middle ground.
I guess that is my simple request of you, assuming you want to be thoughtful and intentional with your giving this month… think and/or research before you buy, use, do anything pink. I also understand that is hard to do, as the grocery store feels pink-washed as I walk through it, so I give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m pumped about legitimate corporate big-dollar giving, for example all profit for October sales goes to XYZ charity. I’m nauseated by the ones that make pink product and then give nothing to charity, or a token donation that pales in comparison to the profit.
My legacy is not about pink ribbons, breast cancer, Stage IV or otherwise. My legacy is Do Today Well and my relationships with my family and friends. If you have “pinked” at me in the past, I took it in the sentiment I’m sure you intended: I love you. You matter. I carry you with me.
If you really want to do something this October, I suggest you find an actual person suffering, and step in to ease their situation somehow. (Note: I do not mean me.) I think that’s the heart of the movement, but it’s always the most effective when it is done person-to-person, relationship-to-relationship. Brad and I are trying to teach the girls this practice, but it requires such intentionality! Step in. Give. Gift. Surprise. Delight. Dazzle.
Trust me, you can’t go wrong this way, and it really does make a difference for all the right reasons. I’ve been on the receiving side of this many more times than I deserve and it always cheers me beyond what you can imagine.
I love you. You matter. I carry you with me.
Isn’t that what we all want to hear?
Do today well.