Monthly Archives: October 2015

Pink Honor


Full Definition of HONOR

a :  good name or public esteem :  reputation
b :  a showing of usually merited respect :  recognition <pay honor to our founder>

I don’t want to discount the most beautiful gesture of being honored. Every October my heart is brimming over with love and appreciation, and I never know how to express it. Most years I am too embarrassed to express my thanks, some years I was too sick, and that one year I was too much of a train wreck. This year the push for a change in Pinking seems to be over shadowing the beauty that is in honoring the forever fighters (metsters) and survivors.

Pinking isn’t always about the money and the donations, and it can be “The thought that matters”.

But that’s not all it is. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think of the high school cheerleading squad in Texas that wore pink bows in their hair  in my name, even though only one of the girls knew me. A volley ball team in Rhode Island wore pink socks to honor me, although none of them had met me. My friend wore a pink bracelet at work as a card dealer at a casino every October for me, and my sisters wore matching heart charm bracelets. Two years ago a  14 year old boy from my church in Las Vegas  chose to buy pink socks instead of the yellow ones for no other reason besides  “it’s  for Mrs. Bivens.”

So if it’s not about the money being donated, how does it help?  My story is being told. The volley ball coach had worked with my husband and told them all about my family.  My sisters and friends would tell my story to every person who asked about the bracelet. I know each one had a different take, for mine is the story of hope, of perseverance, and of God’s grace.  I also know that every morning when they put it on they would pray for me. That is humbling.

Whenever I go to the Pink events that are honoring the survivors, that is exactly how I feel. I am honored that anyone is thinking of me, wishing me well, and so very honored to be prayed for. Professional sports teams get a lot of criticism for wearing Pink and having Pink games, but do we really know who they are thinking of when they are putting on their Pink garb? Is it their mother, sister or aunt that they are praying for? This year one of my daughter’s friends on the high school football team  wrote  “Mama Bivens” on his pink wrist tape, and I know it’s to support her as much as me. This touches me so much.

When the martial arts studio I attend sold pink belts, the response was huge. Unfortunately, almost all the kids have  people in their life affected by this disease, but this is a way  that they are able to honor them by wearing a pink belt to class and demonstrations. There are also the relatives and friends that they are celebrating as survivors, as well they should! Keep on celebrating them, and keep sharing their story!

All of our loved ones want to do something. It is a frustrating disease and so hard to feel like there is nothing really to be done to help. Yes, there is monetary donations, but we all long to make a more personal connection. It’s no surprise that my son’s middle school has an overwhelming student  participation in the October Pink Parade every year.

It might not be popular to say right now, but I say go ahead and Pink. Trust me- it feels good to know someone is thinking of you. It gives me encouragement, strength and makes me feel loved.

And I humbly, and thankfully accept your honor.

Pinktober- Think Before You Pink

How I wish I could go back to the pink cheer I felt when I thought I had my stage II breast cancer beat; the feeling of “we are all in this together, we support you. We care.” The feeling of hope, that we can beat this united under a pink ribbon. We can all do something- we can buy things with pink lids, pink boxes and pink tags. We wear pink jewelry, dye our hair pink, change our profile pictures to pink ribbons and feel like we are getting somewhere. But now we know more. We deserve more.
What started out as awareness has been pink washed into a joke. Too many companies have tried to get attention by “pinking” their product while giving little to no money to the much needed research. If only they did! We might be a lot closer right now. Maybe that number of 110 people who die worldwide every day from this disease would go down. Maybe we wouldn’t be loosing our mothers, daughters, aunts and friends to this disease. I’m afraid we blew right through awareness and came out the other side to ridiculousness. Pinkwashing is now in the same category as the over used Pumpkin Spice. In fact, the pink breast cancer candles are right next to the pumpkin spice candles on the store’s shelf. What does that pink candle have to do with breast cancer at all? Make sure you read the fine print on the label; it might be as much as pumpkin spice does, just that it’s October and that is what is on the shelves. While more and more pink products are being sold, the rate of young women (under 45) being diagnosed with breast cancer has nearly doubled in the past 10 years. How did this happen?
Once the breast cancer travels to another part of the body and becomes metastatic, the pink hope fades even faster. That hope for a cure seems farther way and more allusive, for there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer. October is a tough time for metsters, otherwise known as “lifers”, because every month is breast cancer awareness month for us. When my breast cancer came back in my lungs, the first few Pink Octobers were really hard for me. Everywhere I looked was a reminder of what I had and what I was going through, and I was angry that people couldn’t understand what it was like to know that my life is being cut short because of my disease. (Hint: it’s not the same as getting hit by a bus) Women diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer live an average of 3-5 years, and I was given just 12- 18 months. Every pink ribbon was like an assault, excluding me from the celebration of survivorship.
October is no longer an awareness month, it is now a call to action month. Everybody wants to do something to help, so please look carefully and think before you pink. We need more. I am so happy to say that feeling of anger faded as I started identifying myself with survivors again. Yes, I am a survivor because I am still here, and I want to take the pink ribbon back on metastatic terms.
I have made it through 6 Pink Octobers as a metster now. We tell the stories of our lives, and continue to keep trying to get the message out about the importance of the research for a real cure. If we are careful about what we pink, what we buy, and where we put our money, just maybe that cure we find will be in time for me too. And that is truly the meaning of Hope for a Cure.