Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thinking Pink

It is worth me forcing myself to remember that it was only two or three years after the old man tripped the mortal coil that Mom came home - as cool as the other side of the pillow (as Stuart Scott might say) - to inform me that our planned vacation to northern California to see San Francisco and to visit Kara in college had to be cancelled. Mom's cool was actually a bit unnerving inasmuch as we stood in the living room of the house on Wertsville Road (the home that Dad - who would have lasted as long in retirement as Paul "Bear" Bryant did had he ever bothered to live that long - built as, "the place where we shall retire") on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening having this conversation (well - more of a monologue really as she spoke and stood there mouth agape) and the trip to California upon which she had just put the mighty kibosh was scheduled to begin about 36 hours later.

While this will not seem fathomable to anyone reading this who does not know Mom, anyone who does will have no difficulty at all accepting the fact that the next sentence she uttered, "We can't go because I have breast cancer and have to go into the hospital to undergo something called a radical mastectomy", was spoken with as flat an affect as, "I picked up a can of turnips on the way home from work for dinner." It was right then - standing face to face with my mother a/k/a my sole surviving parent - that I felt what it was like to have one's life impacted by the prospect of losing one you love completely to such an insidious disease.

If memory serves me correctly, I was sixteen when Captain Matter O' Fact broke her news. It thrills me that more than twenty-seven years further on up the road, she is still here raising hell and living her life. She had a scare or three in the first few years that followed the initial diagnosis but all these years later here she is - a tough old Irish broad kicking breast cancer squarely in the face. And if you know the indomitable Joanie K. you recognize that as the compliment that it is intended to be.

Sometimes though no matter how tough, no matter how brave, no matter how resolute the person suffering from the disease is, breast cancer proves to be impossible to defeat. Fourteen and a half months ago (give or take a couple of days), breast cancer killed Margaret's mom - Suzy B, whose small, somewhat frail physical frame belied the size of the heart that beat within. Breast cancer first came calling for her slightly more than six years ago and once it got its hooks into her, it never let her go. There were times when its grasp seemed relaxed and it appeared as if she had extricated itself from it and was skipping along down recovery's road. Those good times - as great as they were - seem in retrospect to have been mirages. Seem to have been nothing more than a cocksucker of a disease having figured out a way to completely f*ck with a wonderful woman and the family who loved her.

Last summer sucked at our house. In the wake of her death on June 2, with the exception of a few counter punches that were landed here and there (Megan/Adam's wedding, our trek West to see the boy man-child in Wyoming jump immediately to mind), my little family unit spent the Summer of Aught-Nine getting kicked in our collective face. But just when it seemed as if we were going to continue to get our brains bashed in mercilessly, an amazing thing happened. Suzy B.'s two oldest grandchildren: Suzanne and her cousin Megan decided not only to start kicking back but to do so with a vengeance.

An important step in the big payback was the organization of a ragtag yet spirited group of runners and walkers to participate in the 2009 Race for the Cure - the Central and South Jersey Edition, which takes place annually on October's first Sunday at Great Adventure. Running in honor of Suzy B. the name came easily - "Sue's Crew". It was one hell of a day. There were thousands of men, women and children there that morning (including the 24 or so of our Crew sporting our pink t-shirts). A lot of those present were family members who had lost someone to breast cancer, a lot were survivors and all were there doing a little something to push back against this truly soulless bastard.

Despite our sternest warnings that it should cease and desist, breast cancer remains as real a health problem for (principally) women in the hazy days of Summer 2010 as it was twelve short months ago. So, doing what we can do, Suzanne has marshaled our troops together again. On October 3rd, we shall run - and walk - again. Sue's Crew shall run anew. We have not yet settled on (a) a t-shirt design; or (b) an inspirational slogan for our shirt. Last year we went with, "Life is Good". This year I suggested, "For the Cure we come to Race/To kick breast cancer in the face". Both Margaret and Suzanne seem hung up on the fact that breast cancer does not have a face to kick. I say that is a mere technicality but having seen this film before and having a fairly keen sense how it ends up, methinks that Sue's Crew II shall have a different catchphrase festooned across our chests than the one I have suggested.

If you are interested in participating, whether on Sue's Crew or at the Central and South Jersey Race for the Cure or on a different team and/or at a different location entirely, then I would urge you to do so. If you are a woman, you can chalk up your participation to nothing more than following the sage advice of Sister Aretha and Sister Annie. If you are a man, you need to do nothing more than look at and/or think of the women in your life and all you are doing for them by getting involved.

-AK

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