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Sunday, November 20, 2011

The New Black? It's Pink! (Nov. 20, 2011)

Get your pink feather boas out. This weekend in San Diego is the Three-Day Suan G. Komen walk for a cure for breast cancer. I accidentally found myself on the walk route two days ago and I am so glad to have been a witness.

Months ago I heard talk about the 3 day walk to be held in November. I’d heard about it from those who have walked and I knew it was an annual event that raises not only money but also spirit. However, at the time November seemed like a speck on the horizon. Somehow, once the school year started, September and October raced by in a blur of book reports and Halloween costumes. Furthermore, approaching fast is the hurry-scurry pace of November and December, packed with holidays and birthdays. So the three-day snuck up on me. Hubby and I decided to spend Friday morning morning walking near the beach and when we parked I saw pink pop-up tents dotting the grass by the sand. Busses. News vans and crews. People dressed in shades ranging from salmon to flamingo to watermelon. It was a sea of pink and the enthusiasm flowed.

I’m embarrassed that this important event was not really on my radar, but I have to be honest about that. On the other hand, my life is full of serendipitous discoveries (many of which you read about on this blog). What’s important is that I found myself in the middle of a pink tornado of energy and people bustling about, gathering momentum as they walk toward a goal everyone can agree on: curing breast cancer.

I think it was meant to be that I crashed this party. Without intending to, I’d dressed for the event. Under my shirt I was wearing a pink bra (is this too much information?), and I also wore my dark pink hoodie, and the pink laces that hold my walking shoes together. I wear bright pink laces every day! It’s my favorite color, so full of life and joy. On the ground I found a dark pink feather that had fallen from someone’s boa and I put it into my hair with a barrette. We waved and cheered for walkers, and although we hadn’t planned to be part of the wave of passion, we were part of it and it felt great.

Breast cancer (any cancer, really) is serious, and I don’t mean to make light of a health challenge that so many face. But that’s one reason I wanted to write this piece: the passion I saw today is so contagious. It’s inspiring.

Thousands of people turned out to walk, to show their support, to raise money for research. Some people are walking the full sixty miles and others are doing ten. There were regular stop areas where walkers could drink or eat, and where people cheered them on. Businesses along the walk route had pink balloons and posters out to show their support. Vans drove the route, with bras stretched across their surfaces and slogans like “Boobie Lift” adorning their windows, in case walkers needed help. Cars were decorated with pink pom-poms. Up-tempo music played. One woman had two curly pink ribbon tassels attached to the front of her shirt.

You don’t have to wear pink to show support for the cause, but it does inspire a team spirit. Some might find it wrong or flippant to wear pink tutus or accessories to a breast cancer walk. But I believe I know why people do. It makes a subject that is very serious and frightening a little easier to handle if people find a way to make it less intimidating. I don’t know what it’s like to face that diagnosis, or to fear for someone close to me who faces it. Some people might feel that the balloons and slogans make light of something heavy. But if people start talking about breast cancer more, start doing more self-exams, and want to participate in these events because there is a celebratory vibe, isn’t this the goal?

It was so heartening to see men on the route. There were older men on motorcycles (with bras stretched across the fronts!) and young guys, too. Maybe they were there in support of their moms and sisters, or because some men get breast cancer (although men comprise less than one percent of people who develop breast cancer). Either way, I loved the solidarity. It isn’t just a women’s issue. It affects people, lives, families, and it was great to see a few men on the route with all the women. One straight-laced, shirt-and-tie guy had a magenta boa on. A seventy-year-old was wearing boxers over his jeans, and the boxers had pink ribbons printed on them. I grinned and told him I liked his gusto. He grinned back, and I think he liked my gusto. Friday’s accidental involvement with the walk inspired me. I cheered on strangers, and they smiled back. People came together. There was no divisiveness. There was togetherness, a focus on a cure that would transform so many lives. It was incredible.

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