Pink Streak

Every October, I put a pink streak in my hair. I usually do it myself, making a mess of me and my bathroom.  It’s really noticeable, being that my hair is sun-bleached blonde. I get a kick out of how the people in my Southern conservative town look at me with it. They can’t really handle seeing my earrings and tattoos, none the less bright pink hair. I know, pink in October is becoming a little over-done, but this streak comes deep from a place in my heart. It’s the least I can do to honor the survivors, remember the victims, support the fighters, and inspire prevention of breast cancer.

I clearly remember the first time I put my pink streak in my hair. My mom had been just diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer.  Though it was small, mild treatment and surgery (partial mastectomy) were in her future, and I watched her sink deep into depression as she realized that she had “the big C”.  The once cheerful, energetic, social butterfly retreated into her bedroom and didn’t want to come out. I thought long and hard about how I could support her, from making inspiring music playlists to giving her motivational pep talks, but none of it was working. I tried to think of something personal, something that we did together as mom and daughter. I remembered that we often spend days dying each other’s hair. Hair was my answer.

I marched myself down to the discount hair supply, where I met a young lady and told her my intentions of dying a pink stripe in my hair to support my mom who was about to start her fight against breast cancer. Of course, I had no idea of how to put a pink streak in my own hair, but the girl sold me everything I needed, gave me a short lesson, and off I went to dye my hair and stain my bathroom pink. She even gave me more of a discount to support my cause! Once I survived cleaning the bathroom, I went to my parent’s house and showed it to my mom. She loved it, and it has become a symbol of support ever since.

My mom’s fight was fairly tame, as far as cancer is concerned. I know, however, that it’s not always easy. I know several survivors that have fought long, hard battles with heavy chemo treatments, plenty of radiation, complete mastectomies, and reconstructive surgeries.  I can’t help but think of these ladies when I start painting my hair pink.  All of these survivors are strong, brave women that beat breast cancer, and I respect that more than words can describe.

However, not everyone is lucky enough to win the battle. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer, and really went through the works to beat it. She has the best treatment, best surgery, best care, but a few years later, she was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, metastases of her breast cancer.  She died only a month after her diagnosis, in October.  The world lost another brave, strong woman that day, and I wear my pink proudly in honor of her, and others who have lost the battle.

Medical advances in the world of breast cancer and research have been amazing. They can now test you to see if you carry a gene that will dictate whether you will most likely get cancer or not. Of course, some of the causes of certain breast cancers are caused from lifestyle, but others could be caused by the BRAC1 or BRAC2 Gene, which is related to the causes of some breast and ovarian cancers. Carrying these genes does not guarantee that you will get cancer, but the chances are pretty high that you will. According to research, this only effects a small percentage of the total population, but I already know ladies that carry it, and were brave enough to have prophylactic mastectomies and hysterectomies (not unlike certain celebrities that have also done it). I can’t even comprehend the courage it must take to make that decision, but these ladies did, and for that, I salute them with this pink streak in my hair.

With my mom’s diagnosis, I realized that I am now at a high risk for breast cancer. It’s even more important to me to do my self-checks and get my mammograms when the time comes. I’ve taken it upon myself to research the causes and preventions of breast cancer, and am on the way to live a long cancer-free life (fingers-crossed).

According to the American Cancer Society (reviewed on September 13th, 2013), some ways that you can help prevent breast cancer are:

  1. Manage your weight. Research has shown that risks of breast cancer are higher for those who are obese, especially for those past menopause.
  2. Get active. Exercising as little as an hour or two a week can decrease your risks of breast cancer. It doesn’t have to be much, brisk walking should do the trick.
  3. Limit alcohol consumption. Women who drink 2 or more alcoholic beverages a day increase their risk to 1 ½ higher than women who don’t drink.
  4. Ask questions about your hormone replacement therapy and birth control pills. In 2002, researchers proved that women who take progesterone and/or estrogen have a much higher risk of breast cancer.

Did you know that there are currently 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the US right now? That number is incredible!!  I am proud to wear my pink in October, in honor, memory, and support of all of those who have fought and continue to fight breast cancer. I will keep my punky pink tradition for ever.

For more info about Breast Cancer, including current research, facts, preventions, risk factors, and treatment, please visit the American Cancer Society’s breast cancer info page: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/index