It’s Deep-Fried Friday, when I post something that I hope is juicy enough to think about with a nice crunch to it as you read. Today I’m talking again about breast cancer in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Last Saturday, on October 1, I pinned Race #21911 onto my pink-ribboned t-shirt and walked 3.1 miles through downtown Houston and adjacent neighborhoods. I was joined by 38,000 runners and walkers, most attired in pink as well. The annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure has been in Houston for 20 years. I have participated for the last eight.
Here is why I walk:
My Grandmother. My grandmother was larger than life. She had an opinion about everything and shared it in no uncertain terms. In the 1920s, she graduated salutatorian from her high school, attended college (rare for women in those times), and taught in a one-room schoolhouse. Her courtship with my grandfather began as pen pals; she lived in Tennessee, and he in Florida. They met once before he proposed by letter and mailed her an engagement ring. They were married for more than 50 years.
My grandma was always curious, active, and learning. She walked everywhere – albeit as slow as a snail – and took a computer class in her 80’s because she wanted to know something about this new technology of the PC. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy at age 80. A few years later, she had severe abdominal issues, and it was presumed that the breast cancer had metastasized; however, she refused to have tests to confirm that. As she explained to the doctor, “I know I’m dying, you know I’m dying, and I’m ready to go see God and Russell [her husband].” She died in January 1991 at age 86.
My Mother. My mom is great at everything. (Seriously, I’m still trying to figure out what she stinks at.) Growing up, I recall her cooking delicious meals, sewing Halloween costumes and prom dresses, doing embroidery projects that looked the same in the front and the back, having the answer to any question off the top of her head or with a bit of research (mind you, pre-internet), singing beautifully, and tinkling the ivories like a concert pianist (“Malagueña”never sounded so good!). Anything she wasn’t good at, she didn’t like doing anyway (like shopping).
My practicality and information-gathering probably come from my mom. We also share a love of music, even though I can’t begin to play the piano (Why did I quit lessons?). But Mom is best at doing what moms do: Supporting her kids. When I finally revealed that I had written a novel, the first words out of her mouth were, “It’s about time.” Really? How did she know I had it in me when I didn’t know? My mother is a breast cancer survivor and a vibrant woman in everyway. She has joined me on some of those walks, and it has been my pleasure to celebrate her.
My Best Friend. When I moved to Houston, one of my first contacts was Paula. I met her at church, and she invited my husband and me to join her, her husband, and other couples for dinner. Over time, our friendship deepened. We shared our Christian faith and a love of grammar, Barry Manilow, and profound topics. When she revealed that she had a lump in her breast, I responded that it was probably nothing. Yet she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer.
The next five years were a fight for her life. Without M.D. Anderson, the support of others, and her intense desire to raise her daughter as long as possible, she would have been gone quickly. Still, a few months before her 40th birthday, she died. I was with her several hours before her death. We all miss her.
By the way, I kick myself about her obituary. I was tasked to proofread it, as Paula would have expected. It ended up reading “proceeded in death by” instead of “preceded in death by.” Good heavens, did I think there was a parade of people heading to the pearly gates? Oh well, I think she forgives me.
My Friends. I have had several other friends who have dealt with breast cancer –ladies I’ve met through college, church, Little League, church camp, and elsewhere. My heart breaks when I hear of another woman who must wonder about the fate of her breasts and, more importantly, her life. These women remain in my thoughts and prayers.
As I put one foot in front of another at the Komen Race for the Cure, I am reminded of these women. I walk in their memory and in their honor. I remember all of their beauty – even when they were breastless, hairless, or pale from chemotherapy. I know that what I do is so very small – a few blocks of traipsing – but it is a day to remember, a day to raise money for the fight, and a day to celebrate life.
What charity do you support and why? What does it mean to you? Why do you give of your time or your money?