Most everyone knows that October is breast cancer awareness month. If you are not aware, you must not get out much.
Pink ribbons are everywhere. The NFL players wear some form of pink during every October game. Pink trinkets entice you to buy them in every shop.
Yes, October and pink are as synonymous as October and Halloween.
However, the House of Pink is a place that when one enters, it alters their view of what that color means… forever. Once you have walked through the pink door you no longer just pass the trinkets, or just notice the pink gloves on the football players, or just tie a pink ribbon in a child’s hair; you will now do so with a chill creeping up your spine. And, it never goes away.
My grandmother loved the color pink. It was her absolute favorite. It became mine as well. I never was sure if I really loved the color or just loved her. It didn’t matter; up until 2011, pink still was my favorite color because it reminded me of my favorite person.
Admission into the pink house is always shocking. Whether it is your own diagnosis of breast cancer or it is found in someone you love, it knocks your world upside down.
For me it was someone I loved; my daughter. She and I held on tight the first day we walked into pink. A world of testing, medical terminology, oncology, surgeons, geneticist, MRI’s, glaring lights, and fear.
One has no time to prepare for your stay in the pink world because it consumes you immediately. You have to dig deep into places you never knew existed within your soul to find the courage to keep walking and breathing. All you have is the love of each other and faith to keep you moving inside this new, scary place. There is no escape.
During the months our family spent inside the halls of the pink home, the outside world seemed far away. As if somehow, time and space were altered. People you never knew before became strong allies and friends. People that you did know became lightning rods of support and hope. God became more visible and unquestionable.
The walls in the pink house are papered in hope. Hope is the main ingredient served at every meal and it fortifies you. Every day is a walk to tomorrow with crutches made of hope and stumbles from fear. Every day is filled with begging God and begging doctors. Every day turns into a night of tossing, turning, and doubting.
Mirrors in the pink world’s chambers reflect beautiful heads with no strands of beautiful hair. Circles are under sad eyes filled with tears or sickness. Yet, the reflection also shows a group standing behind you.
They whisper, “You will return, your hair will grow, your circles will fade.” They are the sisterhood that once walked the halls in the pink house. Without it, the pink world would turn to solid gray gloom.
Once you are in the middle of your journey in this rosy world, you have calmed a bit and accepted the fight you will have. Your swords are drawn and you tackle the pain and the illness running through your body which now has become almost foreign to you.
You allow harsh chemicals to enter a port in your chest to kill cells within you. You sit and worry about what the effects of these will do to you both now and later, while the rest of your brain is reading a magazine. You have no choice. Your choices are now gone. Cancer took them away.
Then one day you catch a glimpse of the green of the trees, the blue of the sky, the brown of the earth. The pink is starting to fade. The hair starts to return and the scars start to heal. The nights become bearable and food starts to have flavor again. You realize, with awe, you have lived for a year in the pink world.
It has now been five years since Heather and our family left the pink house. As I look back I can still see it there filled with others who have just entered and those who are getting ready to leave. It’s rosy hue always transforming the old gloomy house to hope.
Heather and I know the rear door of that house stays open. You learn to live with knowing that you will always be a card carrying member of the sorority of pink. It is the sisterhood that allows you to do so.
Yes, pink still is my favorite color. I loved the grandmother who wore pink, but I adore the daughter who lived it. Both were and are the finest and bravest women I will ever know.
Next time you pass a pink ribbon, or a pink trinket, or watch an NFL player wearing pink shoes, remember these things are there to remind you of a world you or someone you love could enter at any moment.
I hope you never do, but if you do, I can guarantee the survivors that are forever in pink will hold your hand through the journey and God will give you the swords for the battle.
Canon Dick Sheppard was the minister at St. Martin in the Field Church in the heart of London right after... read more