I have been trying to puzzle out exactly what is at the core of how I feel this year about Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For weeks now, I have been perplexed, knowing that the explanations I’ve come up with so far have fallen short.
Last night, I decided to put on my clinician hat and attempt to identify my symptoms: I feel utterly stymied, crabby at times for no apparent reason, and my penchant for righteous snark seems to be broken. My sense of parody, my ability to turn some of the errant nonsense of Pink Month on its ear, has all but fled. I avoid the news in all forms. I cannot bear to go to the store and see shelves full of pink merchandise. I have no patience with even the most innocuous forms of symbolism. I’m not depressed per se, but I’m not myself. Yes, I need a vacation, and I’m on vacation from work, but beyond the stresses and strains of everyday life, I feel like I need a vacation from breast cancer awareness itself.
Today, the obvious finally hit me. Underneath it all, what I have been feeling is grief — grief over the friends I have known and lost to breast cancer; dread for friends who are newly diagnosed; heartache for friends who are dealing with the dirty bomb of metastatic disease, which is turning their lives upside down and inside out; sorrow for friends who have lost friends and spouses and siblings and parents and children to this disease. I am awash in this tsunami, and I realize I cannot get past it unless I go through it. But it hurts to acknowledge how deeply I am in its grip, how it makes me feel sick in my soul and weary in my body, right down to my toes. I just want to lay down and cry. Or stand up and keen.
A ‘moment of silence’ at a breast cancer gathering is not enough. One day out of thirty-one to acknowledge metastatic breast cancer is not enough. The unspoken suffering of any one of us, the forgotten death of any one of us, hurts all of us. We are not statistics. And ribbons seem inadequate to shoulder the burden of our losses.
The color of my grief is not pink.
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