Some of you have known me for a while.
Some of you have not.
For those of you who knew me back in Cincinnati in 2008, you probably know about an essay I wrote for a Columns and Reviews course I took with the AMAZING Kathy Y. Wilson.
The column was entitled “Fuck a Pink Ribbon”
Sadly, my external hard drive containing the file, was corrupted, so I cannot share it with you all. I have the physical transcript somewhere in my childhood home in boxes of all my other UC stuff.
Anyway, the column was written a few days after my mother shaved her head for the SECOND time. She was preparing for the SECOND time she would go through chemo, the SECOND time she would go through radiation, and the SECOND time she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Except this time it was not stage two, it was stage four.
I was enraged.
Meanwhile, I see my peers, the media, family members flaunting their pink attire like it was something to be celebrated.
I didn’t feel like celebrating.
My world was ending.
My world ended on May 5, 2011.
My world began on May 6, 2011.
My world has changed every single day since my mother died.
I’m not so angry anymore.
I no longer repeat the mantra: “Fuck A Pink Ribbon”
The pink ribbon is the proverbial Band-Aid we place over our damaged hearts, to cover the reality of this horrible disease. We wear ribbons because they are a way to make sense of something that makes no sense. We wear ribbons to control something we cannot control.
When I was going through my anger and confusion, there was no ribbon large enough to cover my wound.
Today, it’s a different story.
A pink ribbon is my mom.
A pink ribbon is my family… my family’s story
A pink ribbon is the kids who made fun of me in middle school because I “clung too closely” to my mother.
A pink ribbon is calling my mother Ro instead of mom, as a term of endearment that all started after she was diagnosed with cancer.
A pink ribbon is my mother never wearing a wig and walking around bald because she didn’t give a shit.
A pink ribbon is visiting my mother in the hospital after her mastectomy .
A pink ribbon is watching my mother’s hair grow back and going to get it styled for the first time.
A pink ribbon is celebrating Ro’s “remission”
A pink ribbon is those good years where she was “cancer free”
A pink ribbon is my mother keeping her diagnosis of Stage 4 secret from my brother and I so we could get through our finals.
A pink ribbon is Ro agreeing to buy me a dog (Blue) before she told us about her cancer.
A pink ribbon is Ro telling me to follow my dreams and go to Berklee, despite her being sick.
A pink ribbon is my mom dancing bald-headed at my first gig and making friends with my band.
A pink ribbon is the clinical trials that never worked.
A pink ribbon is the experimental drugs that never cured.
A pink ribbon is the blood transfusions that were never enough.
A pink ribbon is me crying to my mother, telling her that I will miss her at my first album release, my college graduation, my move to follow my dreams in NYC, my wedding, my children’s births.
A pink ribbon is the day I watched my mother take her last breath.
A pink ribbon is a wake.
And a funeral.
A pink ribbon is raising over $11,000 dollars in breast cancer research and then walking 60 miles in 100 degree heat.
A pink ribbon is moving to New York City, and knowing that Ro would have been proud.
A pink ribbon is moving through life without being able to call my mother every day.
A pink ribbon… is my life.
Practically my whole life.
A pink ribbon is my story.
I spent so many years being resentful and hating the world. But I don’t feel like that anymore. I CAN’T feel like that anymore.
I don’t know if there is some divine meaning behind my mother dying. I don’t know if there is a meaning behind anything tragic that happens in mine or anyone else’s life. But I do know that I control my outlook on the world.
And I choose to view the world as a happy, loving place, despite the world trying it’s damnedest to make me feel otherwise.
This month is tough for me. It’s tough to not be able to turn a corner without seeing something pink. Last year, this infuriated me, this year, it makes me smile. I almost feel like Ro is out there somewhere laughing at me because she knows there will be no way to forget her with all this pink shit floating around! 🙂
There will never be a way to forget her.
She was unforgettable.
And now it’s my turn to be unforgettable.
A pink ribbon is my story… What’s yours?
Shannon Rose Allen