Anything But Pink

At this time a year ago, I was fuming about pink. Pink wrappers on my food, pink teddy bears in gift shops, pink ribbons stamped on my eggs.

Dwight D. Eisenhower photo portrait.

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October is my favorite month and, though I’m ecstatic to be a survivor of breast cancer, I am not at all pleased to see the gorgeous reds and yellows of fall co-opted by the industrial-strength commercialism that now passes for breast cancer awareness.

And so, to put things back in perspective, I present here just a sample of the many other special days and causes that are honored in October.  (Many thanks to my sister for this information, which comes from Apples4theTeacher.com.)

Our excursion through the month of October begins on the 2nd, which is the day set aside to honor farm animals, guardian angels, and custodial workers (who might very well be guardian angels for us and the animals).

Next up is the 4th, which is, well, 10-4 day. (Ha!) Do you know where your CB radio is?

The 5th brings us World Teachers’ Day and Do Something Nice Day.  I say we combine these and just make it Do Something Nice for a Teacher Day (which ought to include giving them a raise).

Mad Hatters and German-Americans have their day on the 6th.  We could perhaps combine these two groups too, but that might be asking too much of the Germans.

The 8th brings us American Touch Tag Day, and I can’t think of any better way to celebrate what is also National Children’s Day.

The second week of October has two days we can all relate to: the International Moment of Frustration Scream Day on the 12th and National Grouch Day on the 15th. Two days later, though, we refocus our attention globally and recognize the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  Too bad we can’t eradicate that problem on that single day.

The 18th is set aside to honor (if you can call it that) National Menopause Day, but whoever designated that day had the foresight to also make it National Chocolate Cupcake Day.

On the 19th, you can Evaluate Your Life, and then follow it up on the 20th with Information Overload Day. (I’m doing my part here, in advance, to ensure you’re sufficiently overloaded come the big day.)

Be aware of reptiles and count your buttons on the 21st. And give the moles their day on the 23rd. (Your cranky co-workers get theirs on the 27th.)

Statue of St Jude on the West Front of Salisbu...

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I’m glad to see that my birthday, the 28th, is National Chocolates Day and also St. Jude’s Day.  My mother named me after St. Jude (sort of), her favorite saint, but I am by no means a hopeless case. I prefer to reflect his characteristic of perseverance.

Those of you with psoriasis can celebrate on the 29th. And anyone unable to wait for Halloween will happily recognize Candy Corn Day on the 30th.  Why not on the 31st?  Because Halloween is reserved not just for spooks but caramel apples, and magic, as well.

I noticed that a number of Presidents were born in October:  Jimmy Carter on the 1st, Rutherford B. Hayes, a fellow Ohioan, on the 4th, Chester Arthur on the 5th,  Dwight Eisenhower on the 14th, Teddy Roosevelt on the 27th, and John Adams on the 30th. I do wonder what Roosevelt would think of those pink teddy bears.  He doesn’t seem the kind of guy who would have ever worn pink. If you really want to go all out for these guys, you can download the coloring pages for each of them at Apples4theTeacher.com.

Eleanor Roosevelt: political activist, First L...

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A couple of First Ladies also celebrate birthdays this month — Eleanor Roosevelt on the 11th (which is also National Coming Out Day), and Hillary Clinton on the 26th (also known as Mule Day). Why the odd combinations on these days? One can only speculate.

Because some causes deserve more than just a day, we have a few special weeks in October.  National Carry a Tune Week and Nuclear Medicine Week share the 2nd through the 8th. Customer Service Week comes a tad later, from the 3rd through the 7th. (I think EVERY week should be dedicated to customer service. We seem to have forgotten what that is.)

The 16th through the 22nd is an especially busy week:  Kids Care, Teens Read, Chemistry, the YWCA’s Week Without Violence, Food Bank Week, Forest Products, Lead Poisoning Prevention, Freedom from Bullies, Freedom of Speech, and recognition of Medical Assistants. The last week of the month brings us World Hearing Aid Awareness and Give Wildlife a Break.

The really big causes, of course, get to claim the whole month. These include apples (how appropriate), bats (not sure if that’s the wooden or furry type), class reunions, and domestic violence. Emotional intelligence, which leads to emotional wellness (well, DUH!), fair trade, financial planning, and AIDS awareness. It’s the Month of Free Thought (something else we could stand to do all year round), books, caramels, chili, chiropractors, dental hygienists, Down syndrome, and ergonomics.

There’s something called “Gain the Inside Advantage” this month, though I have no clue what that means, and we are all to Go on a Field Trip (all month long?  I like it!). Kitchens and baths get the whole month, as do popcorn popping (oops, that poppin’), roller skating and raptors.  And if that’s not enough, we are to honor photographers and right-brained people, and hold conversations about prescriptions.

Two activities I can really enjoy this whole month are Sarcastic Awareness and Self-promotion (does that include the shameless type?).

And if you didn’t get enough of the hot flashes on the 18th, you can indulge yourself every day, no matter where you are, because it’s World Menopause month.

All sarcasm aside…

The list is a reminder that life is full of strange and wonderful things.

Autumn leaves

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Of Saints and Omens

The Popsicle Report: It was popsicle time again at the infusion center yesterday.  And my favorite: blueberry-lemon.  The nurse even asked if I preferred a particular type (before, I just took whatever they brought me).  She brought over the box for me to see. So any of you interested in tracking some of these down can look for Dreyers (or was it Breyers?) real fruit bars. Other flavors in the box are strawberry-orange and strawberry-lemon.

Several other bits of good news to report:

My weight remains in triple digits, a state that might have been helped along by a slice or two of that luscious tiramisu cake a friend sent.

When I drove by my mailbox (you remember, that one at the top of the hill) on Saturday, I found the magic postcard that told me I could renew my driver’s license online.  I consider it my “get out of jail free” card.  That very afternoon, in a few minutes, I renewed the license, which means I won’t have to figure out the proper headgear for a 4-hour wait and a photo in a crowded office.  How convenient.  But it does bring up the question of license fraud.  How do the agents know if the person registering online is really who she says she is?

The third bit of good news is that, with the 3 Neupogen shots last week (and only a mild aching in my hips and legs after the third one), my white cell count rocketed up to a whopping 6.5, smack in the middle of the normal range.  The nurse told me that the drastic decline of last week isn’t uncommon and occurs as the cumulative effects of the chemo set in.  Sometimes the bone marrow just needs some time to catch up.  The dangerous territory is when it drops below 2.0.  That’s when I need to be careful about being in crowds or among sick people.  The problem is that you can’t feel your white count dropping (as you can feel the fatigue with the drop in red cells), so you don’t know when it bottoms out and no one takes a daily reading.  So much about science and medicine is impressive, so much of it is still guesswork.

The increase in the white count comes not a moment too soon. Yesterday, my son came home from school with a sore throat, runny nose and low fever.  I’m keeping him home today (where he is engrossed in building yet another Lego version of a spaceship), and when I called him in sick, the school office wanted to know what specific symptoms he had.  They are, of course, worried about swine flu.  My daughter said said 3 kids were out sick from every one of her 7th-grade classes yesterday.

I’m working hard not to let fear take over my days, which would be all too easy with the media reports on the flu and my current health status. The media tend to focus on topics that grab attention, and this could very well (we hope) turn out the way the Y2K scare with computers did 9 years ago.  My brain knows this, but still the doubts and fears creep in. So to keep an even keel, I remind myself that fear is real, but it is not fact (in the same way that food is not love).  Fearing an event does not mean that event will actually occur.   And I try to take the Buddhist approach — be here in the ever-present now — the lesson we all struggle to remember.

That’s not to say that I haven’t gathered a few protections and comforts about me during this trek.  I keep on the kitchen counter the stack of cards and notes people have sent in the past months as a reminder of how many people care and are looking out for me.  When I feel particularly vulnerable, I wrap myself in one of the prayer shawls given to me. It helps to know I am on several prayer lists: Lutherans in Skokie, Methodists in Detroit, and Catholics and Presbyterians in my hometown in Ohio. It doesn’t matter to me which denomination the prayers go through. I figure they’ve all got a direct line. It’s not about dogma, but intent.

Around my neck hang several talismans, tokens, totems, good-luck-charms, medals, whatever term you prefer.  On one chain are medals of St. Anthony, patron saint of miracles, and St. Peregrine, patron saint of cancer patients.  (Those Catholic saints can get pretty specific assignments.)  I’d like to add a medal for St. Martin (patron saint of the university where I work and St. Jude, whose feast day is my birthday (Oct. 28), and for whom my mother named me.  He is her favorite saint, and she says that people tend to confuse him with “that Judas guy.” Those of you who know of him (one of the orginal 12 apostles; the famous children’s hospital in Memphis is named for him), perhaps know that he is the patron saint of hopeless cases. I have to say I’m not fond of that image, and told mom that I’m certainly not hopeless. (She laughed and said, “well, no!”)  What’s lesser known is that he is also known for perseverance in the face of adversity, and it is under that quality that I’m claiming him.  When I spoke to Mom last night, she told me that she was drinking a Manhattan and talking to St. Jude on my behalf.  Now I don’t know in which order she was doing the drinking and chatting, but I gladly encouraged her to keep it up.

One other totem hangs on a leather cord about my neck. It is a small turtle — a body of white stone with a green etched shell.  When I first got the diagnosis and was talking with my son about it one evening before bed, he got up, went over to his little treasure box, and pulled out this turtle, which he had picked out a year ago as his souvenir from our trip to the beach in Oregon.  He hung it around my neck and told me I could borrow it until I’m better.  I’ve worn it every day since then.  Rumor has it these critters can live for up to 150 years.  I take that as a good omen.