Pink is not just a color. It’s an attitude.
Here we are at the end of October and I haven’t even checked off half the blog posts I’d plan to write this month.
But I cannot let the month end without acknowledging Breast Cancer Awareness Month and reminding readers to mind their breast health. Though my sisters, Karlette and Lori, eventually succumbed to breast cancer, they first detected the disease via self-examination. If you’re not in the habit of performing a monthly examination of your breast, begin today. Be sure to examine yourself monthly and schedule mammograms regularly; your doctor will help you determine what regularly means for you based on age, health, and medical history.
If you’re unsure of how to do a self examination, there are a number of resources available online. Some are simple and straightforward and some provide a bit more detail.
- Breast Self-Exam Chart
- Show Me Healthy Women | Missouri Department of Health Services
- Breast Cancer.Org Breast Self-Exam
There are also many organizations that provide free or reduced cost mammograms for those who do not have health insurance or cannot afford the cost of mammograms.
- National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. Mammography Program
- American Breast Cancer Foundation Breast Cancer Assistance Program
- Centers of Disease Control’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program
Finally, if you or someone you know is coping with a breast cancer diagnosis, allow me the pleasure of sending a bit of cheer and light. Simply, click the Karle’s Wings link above and fill out the contact form near the bottom. I’ll be sure to send heart mail soon.
About the image: The image above features Ellie’s Belles, a gift from my dear friend Lauralee (LL). LL, who works with organ and tissue donation, hosted a BRA Day event earlier this month in which the dolls were featured. She gave them to me when I visited DC earlier this month and spent a few hours with the family. The elegant dolls were created by artist Loren Martz. You can find these and many other dolls in her Etsy shop. [Thank you, LL for the special gifts, and thank you, Browns, for making time for me. ❤ y’all!]
About the title: The title of today’s post was inspired by one of the art journal pages my photographer friend, Diane W., posted on Instagram earlier this week. “Pink is not just a color. It’s an attitude.” It’s an attitude that I hope is sparked whenever we see the color pink, an uncompromising attitude that we will do what we can to manage our breast health and well-being and do all we can to support our sisters [and brothers] who have to deal with breast cancer.
My penfriend Christine sent me the postcard above a couple of months ago. The photo of Bob Carey, “the burly, hairy-chested man in the pink tutu,” made me smile. I have been consumed with thoughts of cancer and how much I absolutely hate the disease. It is a heavy, heavy thing to deal with for the patients and those who know and love them. I needed to remember my smile, so I picked up the postcard again late last night when the house was quiet.
I love what “the man in the pink tutu” is doing to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer patients. I love how he manages to help us laugh in the midst of some of the hardest moments. He reminds us that there is still so much more to life, so much more to celebrate, so many reasons to dance.
Cancer has taught us that life is good. Dealing with it can be hard, and sometimes the very best thing—no, the only thing—we can do to face another day is to laugh at ourselves, and share a laugh with others. –Bob Carey
I’m going to dance in a pink tutu. Do you care to join me?
The secret to living well and longer is: eat half, walk double, laugh triple and love without measure. –Tibetan Proverb
We’ve reached the last of our “Live-Laugh-Love” posts. I mentioned earlier this week that I would explain later why the theme is significant to me. “Live, Laugh, Love” was my sister Karlette’s mantra. If you’ve been following my blog for a few years, you know that we lost her to breast cancer in 2013. I still miss her terribly and think about her every single day. The theme of the latest Global Art Swap provided an opportunity to honor her memory.
It is significant that I’m posting what I sent for the swap today because today is Karlette’s birthday, and as I struggle to move past deep sadness, I find it necessary to revisit the words I shared with pen friends regarding the significance of the theme to me.
Karlette lived as much as she could during her short sojourn on this earth; she loved to laugh and she loved so deeply that she was “everybody’s” best friend. Her middle school students and their parents adored her because she poured so much life, love, and laughter into her students. I learned so much from her and came to so many realizations because of how she handled her many rounds with cancer.
We were designed to LIVE abundantly—to fill life with all the good things we can hold. Yet many of us have trouble with “living” a good life because we allow worries, the past, unforgiveness, and so many annoying trifles to get in the way. Problems–struggles–are inevitable, but we don’t have to make such strife central in our lives. In spite of all the trauma and drama, we can choose joy and squeeze every ounce of the good stuff out of life. When we live in the fullness of joy, those “other things” don’t gain much of our attention and we can embrace the good life.
After my sister’s passing–like many who experience the death of a loved one–grief had me in a slow, tightening grip. Although I knew the process was necessary, I still needed to be present and functional. In an effort to shake myself out of the darkness, I called an aunt–a trained counselor–and she encouraged me to laugh. She told me to simply find some funny television shows or movies and LAUGH out loud. That was the best advice she could have offered at the time. I had forgotten how to smile. I’d forgotten that the most basic thing that makes us feel alive is laughter. And—the bonus—I felt so connected to my sister because she loved to laugh. My aunt’s advice has come in handy quite frequently over the last four years as I found the grief of losing my sister intertwined with other losses.
Laughter also has a way of bridging gaps and mending broken fences, so take it into those relationships that are strained. Find the humor in what may have created a rift. Try not to take life so seriously and make it a point to laugh often—even at yourself. It is certainly medicine for the soul.
LOVE is the most complex part of the theme. Love is easy when people are loving and loveable, but the journey to becoming a truly loving human is beautifully painful. We have to learn to love those who are mean, hateful, and abusive and those who don’t love us. It takes a tremendous amount of soul work to love in this way, but the beauty it creates in us and in the world is without measure. Please note that “love” does not equal acceptance or tolerance of abuse in any form.
I recently watched a video on the protests in Charlottesville, VA, filmed to capture the perspective of the white nationalists who organized the event. Though repulsed by the faulty reasoning, the language and attitudes against non-Whites, Jews, and homosexuals, I felt a huge wave of compassion for the protesters. How sad it is to live with such hatred and willingness to harm others! How inhumane to wish to annihilate others or strip them of human rights!
No matter our vast differences, true love knows no bounds. We must do the hard work and learn to love those who hate us. Kahlil Gibran’s “On Love” captures this far better than I can.
The card I originally created (above) is very pink because that was Karlette’s favorite color. I designed it in a few other colors to appeal to the tastes of family members who will be receiving the card soon.
If you or someone you know is dealing with breast cancer, visit the Karle’s Wings link (above), and a bit of light and joy will wing its way soon…
These words played over and over in my mind as I awakened from my slumber this morning. Today marks four years since we lost Karlette, my younger sister, to breast cancer. And pink orchids were her favorite flowers.
I’ve been fighting with a photo of pink orchids I shot at the New Orleans Botanical Gardens in January. I want it to commemorate her life. I want it to be beautiful. I want it to represent her. I want it to be perfect. It’s far from perfect, but it’s what I have until I get back to New Orleans and capture them again.
I realize my fretting over the orchids has a lot to do with my trying to cope with March 11, a date that gives me anxiety, although I think about my sister every.single.day.
Before her death, Karlette and I had plans to write the stories of her brutal battles with breast cancer and what we’d hoped would be her victory. I have the pictures, but without her voice, I know it will not be the story she wanted told.
Some aspect of her story will be shared eventually, but for now, I’ve decided to honor her memory in another way.
Recently, I had the privilege of writing postcards to breast cancer patients with whom my only acquaintance is that someone they know is in one of the same Facebook groups to which I belong. I prayed and used my sister’s experience to guide me as I wrote. I thought about what she would say and how she would encourage women. It dawned on me that sometimes a small thing such as a postcard or note goes a long way to cheer someone who is struggling with this disease, and honoring Karlette does not require a monumental gesture.
So today, instead of suffering silently this awful loss, I’m reclaiming March 11. Today, I am launching Karle’s Wings, a postcard ministry aimed at sharing with breast cancer sufferers and survivors beauty, light, and joy–characteristics Karlette embodied.
If you or someone you know would benefit from a postcard from Karle’s Wings, please complete the contact form below. The information will remain private and will not be shared with anyone beyond the purpose of addressing a postcard, note, or letter. Within days of receiving the request, you, your family member or friend will receive a handwritten, personalized postcard from Karle’s Wings.
Love and light…
In case you haven’t heard, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). “Someman” posted on Facebook that he’s “offering” free “exams” to women during BCAM. I found it insulting, creepy and a bit disturbing that he would trivialize such an important matter to get laughs. Breast Cancer–cancer period–is no laughing matter and we must do everything we can to raise awareness and encourage women to examine themselves monthly and have mammograms done annually. We must also do what we can to help those who are suffering and continue rallying around survivors and co-survivors. Those are goals of one of the swaps I participated in and of some of the mail I received this month.
The card below completes the “Think Pink” swap I participated in earlier this month (You can see the first card I received in the “Good Mail In…” post). TeePeeMaiden made this and sent it all the way from Canada. I love all the layers! I am honored that she shared this with me since she also made the card for one of her friends who is a breast cancer survivor.
The next piece is an Artist Trading Card (ATC). ATCs are miniature pieces of art (2.5 x 3.5 inches in size) that are usually shared among artists, crafters and collectors. Even for the “craft-challenged” like me, ATCs can be addictive. This one, made with paint, a sharpie, ribbon and a little bling, features the theme “Fight Like a Girl.”
If anyone thinks “fight like a girl’ is an insult or an attack on masculinity, he or she needs to meet my younger sister. She is now battling cancer for the fifth time in seven years. She’s dealt with chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy and other radical treatments. She’s more than a survivor. She’s a fighter who didn’t run and hide from “the enemy” that assailed her body relentlessly. She’s a fighter who stared death in the face many times and, by the grace of God, is still here. She’s an inspiration to anyone who hears her story. Her very presence motivates me to stand up to my literal and figurative bullies and “fight like a girl”–fearless, relentless, strong and hopeful.