October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I had my first mammogram today. I am still in the waiting room as I write these thoughts into the notepad of my iPhone. Despite the very hopeful notion I have that everything will be okay, I also have the overwhelming feeling of wanting to cry. All the Octobers of pink and more pink have created a sense within me that the question of breast cancer for me as a woman is not an if but when. Somewhat like the rape schedule most women live with on a daily basis I’ve realized through this process of doctor’s visits and tests that I operate in a sort of breast cancer schedule as well. The inevitability feels all too real.
Watching shows like L Word and Parenthood with main characters who were diagnosed with breast cancer always sends me into overwhelming sadness as I delve into their plot lines. I cry. I cry for the fictional characters but I also cry in fear. That could be me. My partner. My best friend. It has already been my aunt. My cousin. Co-workers. Friends of friends. I have created a chosen family for myself completely centered in women and womanhood. As I grow older, I know this list will only grow.
And, as I sit in this waiting room for my results I question if my fear is warranted. Or is just the onslaught of October Pink that has conditioned me to believe this is a real reality for me? Am I too hyper-vigilant? Is this real or just another social construction that inhabits within me due to my gender and gender socialization? Did all the Race For The Cures and pink ribbons and Denim Days of my childhood not only create an awareness but a deeply rooted fear?
I debate about posting these very personal thoughts on what for all extensive purposes is my work blog. Part of me feels these are not thoughts appropriate to share around the “water cooler” but thoughts meant to keep private or share only with close confidants. But my “water cooler,” my work – it is my passion. My work is the work rooted in these fears, these social constructions, these lived experiences of women. If I can’t or don’t talk about it as a professional who works in a women’s center, who believes in consciousness raising and “the personal is political,” who else will? Women’s centers and their community members exists to center these conversations, make space for inquiry, and give comfort for the fear. I share my thoughts to create brave spaces for us to critique the “pink industrial complex” while also validating the very real experiences of those living with breast cancer, those surviving breast cancer, those who have died from it, and those who wonder if it will happen to them.
In the waiting room, I got the answer I needed. I am fine and I can breathe a sigh of relieve… at least for now. And, yet I leave feeling I still have more questions than answers.