In the past I have supported the breast cancer awareness campaign; I ran for the cure, bought the ribbons, and donated what I could. Like so many of us, breast cancer had made an unwelcome appearance within my larger circle of family and friends, and I felt I should contribute something to the cause.
This past April, breast cancer appeared again in a most unwelcome way. My darling mom was diagnosed with ductal cell carcinoma with subtype medullary breast cancer; a rare and insidious two-for-one cancer deal. Most ironically, the only person who could understand how upsetting this diagnosis was to me happened to be my mom. Her own mother died of cancer at 54. My grandpa was told he had terminal cancer the day before my wedding and passed away just a few weeks later. Then my beloved aunt, mom’s older sister, died of breast cancer at 63-less than two years after that. Cancer was not a word used lightly in our close-knit family. For us, it was a death sentence.
The pink ribbon lost all meaning with her diagnosis. I did not feel a soft, silken token was going to help us beat this disease. I would have preferred a sledge hammer. Mom is a vibrant, active person, my favourite travelling companion, the queen of grandmas and the matriarch of our extended family. My kids still needed her and, more selfishly, I did too. Drugs, surgery, radiation; these are all rough tools of violence designed to root out an invasive poison. How was a soft, pastel ribbon going to save my mom?
Still, life moves on. You accept the diagnosis, take a breath and put the imaginary sledge hammer down. Blunt force will not help one who is sick. They are not victims who need to be rescued. Rather, they need company, distraction, love, and an acknowledgement that they are still the same person they were before cancer, and they have a normal life waiting for them once they become well again. As her treatment got underway and hope returned, the soft pink silk of the ribbon once again began to represent something more positive; a soft, warming blanket or an enveloping hug supporting a cancer patient through the gamut of tests, surgeries and treatment that mark their experience.
It has been about six months since my mom’s diagnosis and she completed her treatment at the beginning of October with a very positive prognosis. When WestJet announced their commitment to support the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, I added one more item to my long list of reasons why I love this company. With the ending we hoped for just within reach, we now have more than 9500 WestJetters carrying us over the threshold to good health and grateful living.
Know that every effort you make as a WestJetter during Pinktober is received with gratitude by those watching their loved one endure and, we hope, triumph. We are all trying to save our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our aunts and our best friends so they may once again take their place in the circles where they are so needed.