It’s October, which means things have gone “Pink.”
From yogurt tops to Panthers to the paper, the pinking of October represents Breast Cancer Awareness.
I’m a little cynical about it all, I confess. I mean, who isn’t aware of breast cancer by now? Do you not know someone who has had breast cancer? If you are one of the few who does not, I’m positive that you know someone whose life has been affected by breast cancer in a family member or friend. How can anyone not be aware of it?
My cynical side understands that a lot of money has been donated by corporations over time, but I don’t think that corporations are compassionate; I think that “Pink” advertising is successful marketing. I don’t tend to “buy Pink” or think better of corporations that participate in pinking.
Walks and runs raise some serious money and provide people an avenue for showing support. They can also provide a place for celebration and support for those in or who have completed treatment for breast cancer (I was the Honorary Chair of the American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides” event in October, 2004 in Charlotte).
So what does all this cynicism have to do with faith, and what are we to do?
First, faith. God does not give people cancer. That is antithetical to what a loving and merciful God would do. God does stay with those who have it, and will sustain those who lose loved ones to cancer. I do have some sense of what I’m talking about, beyond my theology of theodicy (the “where is God when bad things happen?” question.) My life journey has intersected with breast cancer several times, and I give witness to God’s sustaining presence in the midst of it all.
Second, what do we do? A problem with the pinking of October is that it makes us feel good – our feelings of “helping” are bigger than the actual help that we offer. So, while you participate in or contribute to walks and runs, or buy pink products, and those are not bad things, there are some really important things that you can do.
First, do self-exams. Encourage your women friends to do them. Learn how, and do them regularly. While there is some question about them, most experts say to do them. It can’t hurt!
Second, get regular mammograms. Encourage your women friends to get them. It might be uncomfortable but I can guarantee you that treatment for advanced cancer is worse.
Third, you can make a difference. Go online to healthofwomenstudy.org and join the study. It is a long term, online study of women- who have cancer and who do not. Dr. Susan Love probably knows more about breast cancer than anyone on the planet (Google her for more info), and is the author of this study. Yes, walk. Yes, donate. But here, you can actively (though easily) participate in a study that could make a difference.
We can talk about our faith, but if we don’t live it, it rings hollow. We can talk with concern about breast cancer, but if we ignore opportunities to help, that rings hollow, as well.
The Rev. Dr. Joanne Sizoo is pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.