Who knew such a benign and gentle hue could summon such strong emotions, and could wield such power?
Like the red in a thermometer an old Flintstones cartoon climbing, climbing, climbing with fever, pink has been my gauge of wellness this week.
If you read my blog, you already know that had a deep nasty dog bite to my leg last week. Well since then, as luck would have it for this Luckygrl, it got infected…very infected; raging cellulitis announced itself, all dressed in pink on Sunday morning.
I had actually returned to the hospital ED that morning to experience both the joy of hanging out with all the hungover drunks for hours on end, and for the second in a series of delightful bright pink rabies shots. But when they (the medical staff not the drunks) peeled back the dressing to re-check the wounds, the nurse got very quiet, and a tad nervous. I said, “Um, that pink and swelling is new,” but she didn’t hear most of what I said, as she was already out the door summoning the doctor. And just like that, someone with a sharpie came in and drew a black circle around the edges of the Pink, (well actually then it more a red fuchsia by then,) I was quickly sent to x-ray and blood was yanked from my right arm, amounting to now the fifth stick to that arm in three days. (You can’t stick arms that have had lymph nodes removed.)
“As long as the Pink remains contained in that circle” they said, “you are good. But if it advances beyond that line, you are looking at an extended hospital stay so pack your bags.” Truth be told they wanted to admit to the hospital me that day, but acknowledged that my neurotic worries of picking up MRSA on top of staph were actually valid (once again rewarding my bad germphobe behavior.) We compromised and I agreed to hang out in the ED for the day, allowing them to keep an eye on the Pink while I had my IV antibiotics infused. So, me and my friends at the QVC hung out with the background drip of IV antibiotics for five hours. During that time, despite the compelling Diamonique and Temptations dinnerware presentations, I kept watching that Pink; willing it to retreat, waggling a finger at it saying with my hairy eyeball, “Don’t you dare even think about hopping over that line.”
And since then, my wellness and recovery has been measured by the advance and retreat of the Pink. All week long, Pink kept nudging at me, distracting me, waving it’s little Pink hands around in the air saying, “Look at me!” Reminding me that I was sick, reminding me that I could die.
To say that little old sweet Pink riled up some good old PTSD from my cancer days is an understatement. It is indeed both a poke and a complex overlap to the hardwire left behind by cancer that occurs when you are again watching a drip into your arm; when you find yourself quietly willing something sinister deep in your cells to retreat.
Pink so quiet and soft, has stirred up some serious mental ruckus for sure. Pink caused my lymph nodes to swell and launched the catastrophic death spiral that follows when a breast cancer survivor hears/feels that her lymph nodes are making noise of any kind. Pink has caused me to have my body drawn on in Sharpie in that same dehumanizing way as they did pre breast surgery. Feeling that your life hangs in the balance of simple margins, and the advancement or retreat of something sinister across them, is hauntingly familiar.
Innocent little pink is thus responsible for the high levels of crazy woman anxiety I have manifested this week. (I am lucky I have good friends who get that, you guys are the bestest.) While I know the Pink is an ally in some ways, as it is indeed a warning that something is wrong and needs fixin’, it is a love/hate relationship that I have with Pink for sure.
Pink has kept its soft yet firm heavy hand on my shoulder, holding me back from getting on with it after this ordeal; from getting back to work, back to running and really back to life. The precarious nature of the infection beast and its randomly letting out a PINK! roar now and again has made for a life of caution. Even weeks later I am told, Pink could come back and find me, because of something deep in the wound that was left behind, something that wasn’t killed with the medicine. Pink has forced me to focus on events that I am really ready to move past. Pink held me hostage this week. Sweet, little old Pink in my face yelling, “You are sick.”
The irony does not escape me that we are also smack dab in the middle of Pinktober, and I am surrounded by pink drink cups and pink ribbons, pink nail clippers and pink back packs.
Fellow blogger Katie from Uneasy Pink made a comment to me this week on my Facebook post. I was lamenting (and okay whining a bit) about my oh so pink wounds and she teasingly commented, “Never liked pink.” I countered, “Yes Katie, it always makes me well, a little uneasy.” (Insert smiley face.)
But Pink, yeah. Pink pretty much sums up my October. And yep Katie like you, it makes me uneasy, in more ways than one.
As I plow through other the other oh so much more cerebral and sophisticated breast cancer blogs this month, I can so appreciate each and every one of the multiple opinions and conflicts voiced about this very very very Pink month. Debates swirl faster in Pinktober about the small percentages of the money some big league breast cancer organizations actually put into research to in fact, get about the task of finding a cure. Blogger cheeks are pink with frustration about the futility of a Pink Ribbon drink cup when it raises a small percentage of a penny per cup, and how home-grown charities misuse fundraising money to pay things like their own plane tickets to events all in the name of “awareness.” Bloggers have shouted until they are pink in the face that, “Yes thank you, we are all now aware of breast cancer; now we need to do something about it.” Even I get that it is hard for us at times to feel festive and pink ribbony when the breast cancer that is still taking out our sisters and friends and mothers, metastatic breast cancer is virtually ignored in the fundraising/research arena, and worst of all, most of us are actually unaware of that fact.
Honestly, I feel so conflicted by Pink ribbons. I am so happy when they are used for the right and good, like with my dad’s home town breast cancer group. Conversely, I feel sick when I see that little Pink ribbon on a cigarette lighter, or a vacuum cleaner or a set of tweezers. I feel conflicted because while I realize that Saving the Tata’s or Second Base might be great in theory (especially if say, lots of their money were to go to research) I also personally feel the psychic slap these charities deliver to the woman who currently has breast cancer. I get personally how these Pink sequined laden charities featuring Hooters fundraisers and pin-up girls on bikes have a sexual undercurrent suggesting that perhaps we have less sexual value because well, our Second Bases and now mangled Tata’s were not in fact saved. I feel conflicted when I see money raised yet feel the sharp insult to the breast cancer survivor of sparkly Pink feathered bras raising money for “awareness” when the reality is that we have breasts that were cut off and have trouble even finding one bra fits right and doesn’t cause a rash. But I digress.
Pink is again this month, in some ways a good sign and a warning that something that needs fixin’ is getting fixed, yet it is a love/hate thing for sure, this whole Pink thing for me.
Truth is, Pink isn’t benign and gentle for many of us cancer girls. Pink shouts, “Malignant!” Pink shouts sinister. Pink doesn’t make us feel happy or honored or lucky or proud at times. Pink forces us to focus on things we are ready to move past. Pink holds us hostage this month, distracting us from our lives, and giving us unwanted celebrity at times as it shines its Pink spotlight on us. Sweet, little old Pink, everywhere we turn this month there it is. Pink, trying to be sweet and honoring and adoring like a parent in public, yet we know how it does in private, how it gets us alone and yanks our arm and whispers its hot Pink insistent breath in our face saying, “You are sick! It could come back!” all because of something deep in the wound that was left behind, something that the medicine failed to kill. There is nothing soft about pink for us, pink is hard.
Pink, distracting us from living our life. Everywhere we go, from the grocery store, to the internet, to the football game, to our kids schools, festive sweet Pink ribbons beckoning with its come hither pink wileyness, a bit of PTSD. Pink, poking softly at our hardwire, Pink stealing at least momentarily, our happily ever after.
Pink, a benign and gentle hue, reminding us that once upon a time, a neat circle of margins were drawn, and we must still spend our days willing it to retreat, begging it to not hop over the line.
Pink is nudging at me, this week, this month; reminding me I could die.
I think I need to channel my inner Audrey.
“I believe in pink.
I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner.
I believe in kissing, kissing a lot.
I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong.
I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.
I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”