A month punctuated with football players in pink spikes and hats, newspapers printed on pink newsprint and folks dressed in pink (we even have someone at the office with a pink strand of hair). It is the month where we think about breast cancer awareness. Who among us doesn't have someone affected by this significant issue for women?
It is amazing to me how effective the pink campaign has been, and it is stunning how many people and places have adopted the pink initiative. It appears on office buildings with their lights illuminated as pink each evening, and even Drew Brees reminds us that breast cancer research provides more birthdays for mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and uncles.
During this breast cancer awareness month, a good friend of mine is in the battle of her life with hers. She has just finished radiation, and has sores in her mouth, stiffness, and an upset stomach. She was given only a weekend for her body to recuperate before she started chemotherapy. Despite advances in nausea drugs and much lower doses of chemotherapy, she is still sick. Her husband travels for his work, so a friend stayed with her last week. She's been a role model to me for a while. They diagnosed her after spending months looking at other reasons for her poor health. When physicians finally isolated the reason to breast cancer, hers had advanced to stage 4. They gave her a terminal diagnosis with an estimated timeline.
My friend is very accomplished. She had a great career, which she can no longer pursue. When I went to visit her, we walked her dogs, and I asked her how she coped with giving up something she loved. She said she decided to live each day she was given. Instead of chasing something elusive in her career, she spent her days watching the dogs chase bunnies, or smell the air. She watched the flowers bloom and the seasons change, enjoying all of it. As someone who could sometimes be dour, at no point did she indicate she wasn't going to beat breast cancer. At that time, I did not know about the 16 months to live part of her diagnosis. She never let that slip from her mouth to me or others.
Last January, she said she and her husband were having a party. I asked her why, and she said that she had exceeded the estimated timeline. She was living on the other side of what her physicians thought she would. She reminded me that each day to us is a gift, and we need to make the most of it. My friend has served to remind me that we need to spend our time on issues and initiatives that matter. I'm amazed at her positive attitude, even though she can no longer eat any of the foods she loves and do many of her favorite things. I'm amazed at how she does something each day that she enjoys, since she recognizes it is a gift. I'm amazed that at no point has she felt sorry for herself, whined or done anything to lash out at what must feel like injustice.
We all know someone who has battled breast cancer. During this month when we are reminded of its impact, remember those who have taught us to appreciate each day we are given.