Thursday, October 29, 2009

Remember the Pink

sunset on the hill by livingglassart~PC problems.

As a new blogger, I was unaware of Mrs. Blanding's request for bloggers to post about Pink on October 1 for Breast Cancer awareness. Had I known, I would have happily participated! But as we close out the month, I wanted to take a moment to post my Pink Blog.

While I love all the awareness and support around Breast Cancer, I admit I feel a little disillusioned by how the pink ribbon has turned into a money making campaign. Again, great to raise support... but I worry that the real message sometimes gets lost in the "cuteness" or the shopping.

Virginia Beach via La Communidad Online

Like so many others, my life has been deeply touched by breast cancer and I wanted to share my story. First, the survivor story.

My grandmother successfully battled breast cancer twice. I think I was too young the first go-round to really remember anything, but I do remember visiting her in the hospital after her second operation... not really understanding why Grandmother was in the hospital, or what was truly wrong, but hearing that it was something related to cancer and that it was Big and Scary. Over time, aided my my family's move next door to my grandparents, I developed a much richer and deeper relationship with my grandmother. And thought I understood how she beat breast cancer. Honestly, was there anything she couldn't beat?

Fast forward many years and I remember very clearly the telephone call from my mother informing me that my beloved Aunt Jeannette (Aunt Nette), my mother's sister, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Because of our family history, Aunt Nette had a radical mastectomy, chemotherapy, and reconstructive surgery. Always the joker, Aunt Jeannette loved to say how she had gotten her perkiness back (I guess after having four children- all boys- things don't stay quite the same!).

Pale Pink Water Lilly, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Washington DC , Gerry Gantt Photography

I sympathized with my mom, as I couldn't imagine hearing similar news about my sister. And I cried over my vivacious Aunt. How could she, of all people, have cancer???

After a while, she was cleared and we celebrated. Unfortunately, just a few years later, the cancer had reared its ugly head again, though I believe my aunt kept the news quiet for a while. This was not the first time the family had dealt with cancer- my Aunt and Uncle had lost their third son, Bradley, at the age of four to cancer.

Despite all the treatments, it became clear that Aunt Nette's days on earth with us were numbered. The summer before I started graduate school was the last time I spent with my aunt.
Pink 'Annabelle' Hydrangea- Chicago Gardens

My aunt reveled in the time spent with family and friends as much as she could- especially her new grandson. I remember spending the time trying to soak up all of those little moments, but using much of the time in reflection of our deep and dear conversations over the years-- at my grandparent's farm, in our hotel rooms in Japan (where she and my uncle served as missionaries and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit), in various kitchens over holidays, etc.

My aunt taught me about sushi, baking batter bread, unconditional love, and taking life in stride- always looking for the good in things. She was a remarkable woman and I think anyone who had the opportunity to know her is a better person for it.

Hawaii Pink Sunset via Schteingart

Through the death process, I saw the pain my grandparents endured- there is nothing right or natural about a losing a child (and even at 50-something, she was their child!). I've seen the pain in my cousins' eyes... how hard to lose your mom before all those major life events she's supposed to participate in? I saw the constant and enduring love from my uncle when we were in Hawaii... and I completely broke down and wept.

I've also seen the fear associated with breast cancer. My mom, who is at a higher risk given her mom and her sister. My sister and I-- frequently wondering what kind of risk that puts us at.
Waikiki Beach via Super Stock

After my mom announced she would not do genetic testing, I decided this year that I would do the gene test, coming to the resolution that if I had the gene, the knowledge would empower me with the ability to make decisions. (Honestly, I had thought it was almost a foregone conclusion that I would have the "breast cancer gene." After all, not only did it run on my mother's side, but also my father's side of the family.)

National Cherry Blossom Festival,

The test results showed that I did NOT have a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene (reducing the risk of genetic breast cancer). Of course the risk of breast cancer still exists, like with any woman, but for the first time, I felt like I was on an even playing field. I cried for joy. And called my sister.

So now that October has come and largely gone, please remember that the fight continues. Check yourself- and encourage your loved ones to do the same. And remember, a diagnosis is not a death sentence. Empower yourself to fight. And make your life one worth living.


PS- the photos I included today I collected from various geographic locations where my Aunt lived throughout her life. I chose to use nature for my pinks as a reminder to look for the daily beauty and pink throughout the year.


  1. Great, personal post with gorgeous photos. You're good at this!

    On the subject of breast cancer awareness, I'd love you to check out this 30 sec video -- -- about the 'aha moment' of the woman who launched the Feel Your Boobies t-shirt campaign. If you like it, vote for it with one simple click, as the top vote-getters will be used as aha moment TV commercials next year. And more exposure would be a really good thing. Voting ends Oct 31.


  2. This post has really touched me as my mother has been diagnosed with a Tumor in the past few weeks and she too is still young - although it is not breast, I can feel & relate to the emotions in this is such wonderful news that you do not have the gene. Ax

  3. I loved this post, thank you for sharing.

  4. What a beautiful, touching post. The women in your family are very strong and your aunt had a beautiful soul. I have had the saddest summer, cancer all around me being the reason.Lost am amazing women, a scholar, a pastor as well, who after loosing her husband on September 11th, became even stronger in her faith and left behind 3 beautiful sons who showed amazing courage. My friends around me fighting the same disease and finally the news of my mom who is showing incredible courage too...
    I, too, find solace in nature

  5. I see so many people oohing and ahhing over the "cuteness" of the pink stuff and I think the point is missed.

    My best friend died in February ten years after her initial diagnosis, double mastectomy and reconstruction. It is heartbreaking to see what is happening to her kids and how her husband is (not) handling it.

  6. beautiful post.
    i have been touched breast cancer as well.
    my best girlfriend at 45.
    she has survived without her breast...
    but will never be the same.
    and the images you have selected are perfect for the topic.
    love to you.
    renee xx

  7. Beautiful post, Emmie. My grandmother is a breast cancer survivor and I am so grateful that she is still with us. Have a great weekend. xx

  8. Yes, thank you Emmie for sharing your families remarkable, courageous story. Your Aunt sounded like a beautiful woman, mother and devoted family member. The images you chose were remarkable, I'm sure just like her. I too can't help but think that this ever important campaign has become the money maker that you spoke about. I only wish that all forms of cancer got equal amounts of funding and attention. Thank you for your dear comments on my blog today. Very much appreciated & I know I will enjoy reading yours. I am afraid that now a day's all our households have been effected by cancer is one dreadful way or another. All the best to you,
    xx deb

  9. I'm so sorry for your loss. I also lost my Auntie to this devastating disease. The pain that it causes is immeasurable and I pray that we see a cure in our lifetime!

  10. That was a beautiful post, thank you for sharing your story and your aunt's memory. My parents are Oncologist so cancer is something that hits close to home for me too. You are brave for sharing!

  11. You are a gifted writer. Thank you for sharing such personal experiences with all of us. Thank God you don't have the gene. Cancer of any kind can truly shake us up. Thank you, truly, for this beautiful post.


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