GENDUSA COLUMN: Forever in pink

Published 9:16 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Most everyone knows that October is breast cancer awareness month. Pink ribbons and trinkets are abundantly displayed, reminding us to give to save lives.  

However, there is a place where the lights remain illuminated every hour of every day in every month. Its doors never close. The House of Pink is a residence where, once you enter, your understanding of what pink represents will forever change.  After one walks through the sizeable pink doors, you no longer just pass the pink ribbons or just see the pink trinkets; you will now do so with an eerie chill creeping up your spine. 

My grandmother loved all things pink. It was her absolute favorite color and became mine as well.  I was always curious if I liked the color or just loved her. It didn’t matter until 2011; pink still was my preferred color because it reminded me of my favorite person. 

Admission to the Pink House is always shocking. Whether you have learned you have breast cancer or someone you love has been diagnosed, it knocks your world upside down.

For me, breast cancer attacked someone I loved: my daughter. She and I held on tight the first day we walked down those pink halls. We peered into many rooms abuzz with testing, oncologists, surgeons, geneticists, glaring lights, and fear.

You have no time to prepare for your stay in the pink world because it consumes you immediately.  You must dig deep into your soul to corners you never knew existed to find the courage to remain strong.  All you have is the love of family, friends, and faith in God to keep you moving through this new, scary place. There is no escape.

The outside world seemed far away during our family’s months in the pink home.  Time and space appeared altered. Strangers soon became trusted allies and lightning rods of support.

Hope covers the walls in the Pink House. Hope is also the main ingredient served at every meal, and it fortifies you.  Every day is a step toward tomorrow’s journey, with crutches constructed of faith and stumbles caused by fear. Yet, every night involves tossing and doubting.  

Mirrors in the pink world’s chambers reflect heads with no strands of silky hair, and circles are under sad eyes filled with tears and sickness. But the reflection also shows a lovely, inspiring group standing behind you.

They whisper, “You will return, your hair will grow, your circles will fade.”  They are the sisterhood who once were residents of the Pink House. Without them, this pink world would turn to solid gray gloom.

Once you are a patient in the middle of your journey in this rosy world, you have calmed a bit and accepted the fight you will have. You draw your swords as 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 that sicken you. You silently worry about the future effects of chemotherapy while the rest of your brain reads a magazine. You have no option; cancer took your choices 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 begins to return, and the scars begin to heal. The nights become bearable, and food starts to have flavor again.  You realize, with awe, that you have lived for one year in the pink world. 

It has been twelve years since my daughter and our family left the Pink House. I am always aware of those who have just entered its chambers today.  Its rosy hue continues to transform the gloomy old house into a home of hope.

The rear door of the house remains open. We live with the knowledge that we will always be card-carrying members of the sorority of pink. It is the sisterhood that allows you to do so with courage. 

Yes, pink is still my favorite color. I love the grandmother who wore pink but 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, know it is there to remind you of a world you or someone you love could enter at any moment.

I pray you never need to stay at the house, but if you do, I can guarantee the survivors that are forever in pink will hold your hand throughout your journey, and God will give you the swords for the battle.