I never imagined I would be a pink ribbon wearin’, Susan G. Komen lovin’, proud breast cancer survivor, but now…I AM! Oh, what a wild ride it’s been.
There was an incident back in the beginning that set me off. Like there was embarrassing irrational behavior (I see that now) and thank goodness it was contained within my house. I’m sorry to be vague, but let’s just say that it is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to be going through treatments for breast cancer during freaking breast cancer awareness month. Can I get an Amen, ladies?!
You want to scream, “I am fucking aware already! Now I will burn all of the pink shit.”
Now fast forward from October to January: I’ve had two surgeries, a few rounds of chemo, and I am in good spirits. I have found my sense of humor and (dare I say) I have turned myself into a warrior! Well, my already soft-spoken husband comes up to me and sheepishly tells me that he has a photo shoot on a Saturday night at 6 pm. Huh?? I ask who in the world could possibly want to take his picture at such an inconvenient time and he is very hesitant to answer my question.
I ask again, “Who is this photo shoot for exactly?”
He mumbles under his breath, “Shushan Zhe Homen.”
I say, incredulously yet emphatically, “What?! Susan G. Komen?!?! How in the world did they find out about ME???”
Will then explains how the entire encounter was actually very serendipitous. They knew nothing about me! (I quickly tuck my narcissism back in.) They only knew that Will’s Boise State research team had applied for a grant because they were trying to make a cancer detection device. So the team was asked to be a part of the Heroes Campaign for the Race for the Cure in Boise. Other participants included a surgeon, nurses, hospital advocates, and even the husband of a woman battling stage 4 metastatic disease (the ultimate hero in my opinion).
I couldn’t be prouder of my hero! The girls ask why their daddy now has two billboards and I just say, “Smart and handsome. Your daddy is smart and handsome.”
Will asked me if I was comfortable with him telling the Susan G. Komen rep about what we were going through and I said yes. I had come to terms with most of the implications of my plight and I had surrounded myself with such an inspiring support network that it didn’t seem to matter if a few more people knew. A few more people…
Fast forward again, to April this time, and I am finished with chemo. Will forwards an email asking if we would be willing to be interviewed for a local news program called Viewpoint. My introverted husband is cringing, but I tell him, “I have a new lease on life and I am doing ALL THE THINGS. No fear!”
[What does one wear for a tv interview with a 5 o’clock shadow and one boob?] April 21, 2016
#firstworldproblems #probablybigearrings #andapaddedbra
Cue Doug Petcash.
I’ll admit that I had no idea who he was. We don’t watch tv and I really should do a better job of following local news. But we hit it off. Doug and I are both jokesters and there was no shortage of sarcasm flying around on the morning of the interview.
Our interview aired on KTVB numerous times during the first week in May leading up to the big Race for the Cure. You can watch the 4-minute, nightly news clip HERE or the full interview for Viewpoint HERE. Will and I are super proud of it!
The night of the interview we went to our first Susan G. Komen event to learn more about the organization and what they do. I decided to ignore the bad mouthing I had heard about the organization on a corporate level and just find out what the Idaho Montana Chapter does to help the community. I found that 75% of all money raised stays in the area and most of that money goes to screenings for women in remote parts of the state. They also help women connect with doctors and get the treatment they need. I can get behind that. As with most things in this world, I am realizing that you can bad mouth organizations and find a million negative reasons to dislike them, but once you are in the trenches and meet the people working their tails off, it softens your heart and you start seeing the overwhelming GOOD.
I also quickly realized at that event that there is real power and comfort in sharing such a life-altering experience like breast cancer with other people. I guess I knew this all along as I had numerous friends and acquaintances with experience who helped me through my diagnosis and treatment. The comfort I felt with total strangers still caught me by surprise. The other thing that caught me by surprise was that I was the ONLY bald one there! Ugh, I never really did get comfortable being bald.
Now for the main event! On Saturday, May 7th, we biked to the Race for the Cure as a family. How could we not?! The energy was palpable. The sea of pink was blinding. Perfect strangers came up to us and said that they saw our interview. I got hugs and high fives that made my spirit soar! I was so proud to be strutting around in my pink SURVIVOR shirt and feather boa. I had no idea I would feel like that!
This little girl was pretty proud, too. She kept asking if she was a co-survivor like Daddy. I kept telling her I couldn’t have done it without her. Truth.
Me and Hilarie, the Director of the Boise chapter of Susan G. Komen.
Here’s a special one…there is a group of bagpipers called The Boise Highlanders. My friend, Debi, is a member of this group. She didn’t tell me she was going to be playing before the Race and when she saw me she came right up and played just for me. I don’t know about you, but I have a visceral response to bagpipes that takes my breath away. We both started crying but she continued to play. When she finished, I hugged her so hard.
We’re all business as you can tell. Will wanted to go incognito, but the KTVB news crew found us anyway. The reporter asked if she could interview us briefly since everyone knew our story. We agreed but she mumbled something about a commercial break and said she would catch up to us along the race route. Easier said than done in a sea of thousands of people wearing the same color! So we never got our second interview which suited Will just fine.
As if the morning hadn’t already been an invigorating experience, the bodybuilding.com guys got on stage to lead the cool down. Hubba hubba. Of course I’m talking about that handsome scientist in the middle of the back drop. Ha! He’s more my type 😉
I was the last one in line to get my picture taken with these sweethearts. The guy on the right had nothing but encouraging things to say to me about my obvious struggles and then he admitted that his own mother was going through treatments for stage 3 breast cancer. He saw the girls with me. Again, this is no small thing to have in common with someone. I am so grateful for the connections I have made.
Call me a sell out. Call me a convert. Call me a born again Komener. Whatever.
For years on the outside looking in, I saw all of the pink ribbon stuff as both fun and unexpected (oh, look at that pink cop car!), but also overly commercialized and vapid. Now I know some of the women behind the ribbons and I know their stories – they are similar to mine. We have husbands and children and people who would do anything to see us beat our breast cancer. So we all put on our pink crap to show that we’re on the same team because we know all too well that behind the pink mustaches and pink tutus, there is real fear and anxiety. There is an all too real chance that our breast cancer will come back and take us too soon. Before we are ready to go.
Have you been to the Race before? Are you over pink…everything?? Or do you wear it to show your support for someone special?
I’ll definitely be volunteering with Susan G. Komen soon so there will be a lot more PINK in my future. I’m kinda excited about it!