Saturday, October 02, 2010

Looking at the World Through Pink-Colored Glasses

We didn't find out before our girls were born that they were, indeed girls (I figured they were because that's what I'd asked for, but that's another story). At my shower for Lucy, I got a lot of little sleepers in white, green, and yellow. So it was a big thrill for me when she was finally born, and Jennie and her mom, Mary, came to the hospital with a pink bag containing a pink ruffled outfit, pink hat, and pink shoes.

It's been non-stop pink at our house ever since. As you can see from our blog tagline, "You never have to pray about pink."

Now October has rolled around, and I don't know what it looks like for my international friends, but here in the U.S., it's officially Pinktober--the month where many of the products in the stores are pink, there are pink ribbons everywhere, and even when you open yahoo or Google, there is pink. Pink, for Breast Cancer Awareness.

The title is a little ironic to me because if there's one thing I actually am aware of, it's breast cancer. Not long ago when I was over at my dad's house--and do I call it that now? my dad's house, instead of my parents' house?--and he had gotten my mom's death certificate in the mail. It was one of those things where you don't want to look at it but you're compelled to, so I opened it. There was her name, her birth date, her death date and location, and under "Cause of Death"--Breast Cancer.

I remember the first time my mom got breast cancer--10 years ago. One of her sisters had died from it, but it was a shock nonetheless. She went through surgery, radiation, and two courses of chemo until they could pronounce her "cancer free." But the doctors told her, "Your cancer was not estrogen-based [as much breast cancer is]. It was an aggressive, genetic cancer, so there is at least an 80% chance it will come back."

When it did come back, I remember sitting in Mom's living room with her and her saying, "I'm at peace. I know it's time. People keep wanting me to join things, to join the fight against cancer. I'm so tired. I just want to be around someone who doesn't have any plans or goals."

"Like ME!" I told her.

"Yes," she laughed. "Like my dear daughter."

And of course if you read this blog, you know our whole journey: through more and more pain and some treatment and hospitalization and saying goodbyes and hospice and always that cancer, over taking everything, until one day, when it had invaded her brain and distorted the world so terribly for her, my mom--who never murmured or complained--held her head and cried, "Oh, this cancer, it's tormenting me!"

A couple of days before her death, a friend of hers came to visit the hospice and we stood together over Mom's bed, crying, and her friend said, "Isn't cancer so evil?"

One of my great struggles has always been fear. I have gone through the wilderness any number of times on that issue, my mind running the worst possible scenarios, my heart racing, waking up in the night, heart pounding and sweating with anxiety. I have memorized verses and hymns, so that any given time I might be saying or singing (usually in my mind so I don't wake anyone else up!) things like, "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone oh Lord, make me dwell in safety" (Ps. 4:8) or "Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid" (Isaiah 12:2) or "When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie, my grace all-sufficient will be your supply" (How Firm a Foundation).

It helps and it calms and reassures me so I can go on again.

And now that Pinktober is here, and everything from Campbell's soup to Swiffers are pink (I have a pink Swiffer, of course!), I will not lie. I am afraid. I've been to a breast cancer specialist at Northwestern who told me, "Most women have a 1 in 300 chance of getting breast cancer. You have a 1 in 21 chance. But you knew that already, right?" Well, I guess I feared it, but I didn't know it until you told me (thanks!). Aggressive genetic cancer.

I'm afraid to get a checkup. I'm afraid to get that phone call. I'm afraid of chemotherapy and tumors and dying in agony and leaving my girls without a mother. I told my internist at my checkup this summer--you know, the normal kind: breathe in, breathe out, open your mouth and say "ahh," the harmless kind of checkup--"It probably sounds silly, but I'm a little afraid to go get a mammogram. Not because of the procedure, but what if they find something?" He said, not unkindly, "I'm going to tell you what I tell my wife: 'I don't care. Get yourself over there now and get it done.'"

I'm so thankful for everything the Susan G. Komen foundation has done with regard to furthering the fight against breast cancer. Did you know that in at least the last 10 years, maybe more, not one grant, piece of research, advancement, anything having to do with breast cancer has not been touched by the "pink" foundation? The fact that we now set aside this entire month, draped in pink, is amazing to me.

I do my part in donating when I can and buying pink products, but I'm not out there raising funds or going on the walks or being visible in this fight. It's all too mixed up in my mind for me right now. It's too scary, honestly.

I listen to the song "In Christ Alone," that we closed my mom's memorial service with over and over, and right now, the line I keep repeating to myself is this: "From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny."

He commanded my mom's and He commands mine. I'm going to try and trust and not be afraid.

But this month, and every month, I am praying about pink.


Melanie said...

Your post is so honest & so pure I'm hesitant to add a comment but like so many of your other posts - this one moved me deeply. Sending you one huge pink hug. Take care of you - if you let fear hold you back or to delay your step it will pin you down. So, I'll say it again, take care of you.

Mary Fauls said...

Wonderful Alice-
Jennie and I loved bringing you pink stuff. I remember visiting you and your beautiful Lucy as though it was yesterday. My daughter Grace has a lovely daughter, Cecilia Mary, 9 weeks old so I will be shopping for more pink stuff.
My niece and Jennie's cousin Katie (36 with a 3 year old daughter)has been truly battling breast cancer since May. She has absolutely no genetic predisposition to the disease. I understand that you heart needs to rest in your lovely Mother's love at this time, but knowing how strong she was, and being a mother myself, I hope that you will trust God's love for you and have that mammogram when you feel that you can.
I was with Katie the day she was diagnosed and we swore that we wouldn't go in for all of the pink stuff, but we both have started to pick up a few things here and there, and this afternoon I bought a pink ribbon shaped cookie cutter. I'll get going on those cookies tomorrow.
Love to you and all of your family, you have been in my thoughts prayers and in my heart.
Mary Fauls