When I was in 5th grade a new girl moved to my town and was put in my class. She had short brown hair, glasses and bounced as she walked. My teacher asked me to show her around, which I am very glad for because we quickly became best friends.
She had horses, I had horses. She had dogs, I had dogs. I had pet lovebird, she had a pet cockatiel and a pet rat (something I was willing to forgive). We also had a shared love of acting goofy and making others stare.
I remember playing tether-ball with her. Once the ball hit her in the face and broke her glasses. She started crying not just because the glasses were broken, but because she was worried about her mom. She was certain that her mom couldn’t afford new glasses for her and would be mad at her for breaking them. Her mom wasn’t mad, but it did take awhile before she got new glasses.
I remember when we had a substitute teacher who called her by the wrong last name during attendance. She explained it was because her parents were divorced and she wanted to go by her mom’s last name even though the school had her dad’s last name on the rolls.
I remember staying the night at her house and her mom making us blueberry pancakes with orange juice. She let ‘us girls’ eat it off the nice china in the ‘dining room’ that they never used.
I remember hiding with her in her backyard and eating a sugar diorama egg that her grandma had sent her for easter. It was a big one the size of a softball. We ate the whole thing.
I remember when she met my older sister for the first time. She snuck up next to my sister while she was reading and snorted really loudly. It startled my sister and we both ran away giggling.
I remember her telling me, in passing, that her mom had breast cancer. She acted nonchalant about it.
I remember when she told me about how her rat killed her cockatiel. I was too entranced by the gory details (The same details I am sorely tempted to share right now.) to feel appropriately sorry for my friend.
I remember her 11th birthday party. We were playing a board game in her living room while her mom rested on the couch. Her aunt was there to help. Everything seemed perfectly normal. All of a sudden it was time to go play outside, right now. I was the last out the door and looked back just in time to see her mom being sick in the bucket next to the couch.
That summer her mom died. The funeral was held somewhere else, and my friend was whisked away to live with her dad. I was a stupid kid and just let her go. I haven’t had as good a friend since. When I was younger I regretted letting her go like that because of the friendship that I missed out on. As an adult I feel terrible regret for not being a better friend to her during a very hard time in her life.
Breast cancer is not sexy. Breast cancer is not smiles and roses. Spending money on pink merchandise does not help fight breast cancer. Breast cancer funding is a media darling that helps brands improve their image and increase their appeal to middle aged women. The same middle aged women who are constantly reminded to live in fear of breast cancer by campaigns to raise awareness. Meanwhile the treatments for cancer have not improved or even really changed at all in the past 50 years.
The fight against breast cancer isn’t fought by being coy and sexy or by just raising awareness or by lining the pockets of corporate executives. The fight against breast cancer is fought by bringing affordable health care, especially preventative care, to all women. It is fought by holding corporations to higher standards for the use of chemicals in their products and byproducts. It is fought by creating a society that values innovation and discovery more than profit which would lead to real funding for research.
I don’t care what color bra you have on. If you want to fight cancer write your representatives.