As we say good-bye to September and welcome October, we should pause for moment and think about cancer awareness. I’m not just talking about breast cancer awareness. All cancer. September is Cancer Awareness Month. Childhood cancer, leukemia, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer are all covered. But it seems that only the pink one gets all of the attention. It gets its own month, its own postage stamp, and everything from fire trucks to AA batteries.
This article about Cancer and the Color Wars really drove this issue home for me. Ninety percent of those who contract pancreatic cancer will die; 68 percent for those diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
I admit that breast cancer is first and foremost my priority right now. It affected my grandmother and my mother before it hit Shannon. I have purchased pink items of all stripes over the years. As an avid collector of Hard Rock Cafe memorabilia, I have several of their Pinktober guitar pins, including the 2010 edition in honor of my wife. Shannon was the captain of her office’s Relay for Life. We have always given generously to the American Cancer Society and other organizations to fight this disease.
But cancer of all stripes has touched nearly everyone in my life, and I’m sure in yours as well.
- My grandmother had skin cancer before she contracted breast cancer.
- My 94-year-old great-grandmother died of pancreatic cancer.
- My grandfather, great-uncle, Shannon’s father had prostate cancer. Shannon lost her grandfather to the disease, and Carter’s step-great-grandpa has it.
- My great-aunt had multiple myeloma, as does a coworker’s brother. A good friend of Shannon’s was taken from us by the disease.
- Our goddaughter’s grandfather has lung cancer, which thankfully has seen no tumor growth in the last year. The husband of a friend I met through Twitter is battling lung cancer as well.
- A good friend of mine in her 30s is battling cervical and ovarian cancer.
- Shannon’s best friend lost her father to a brain tumor in March 2010. He was able to live long enough to welcome his new grandson into the world.
- One of Shannon’s coworkers lost his 19-year-old daughter to colon cancer. 19 years old.
- Another coworker lost her brother to cancer this year.
- And the list goes on and on.
- Update: Another coworker lost her father to lung cancer December 30.
For the last three years my employer, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, has supported the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for childhood cancer. Hundreds of employees and community members have shaved their heads at our annual March 17 St. Baldrick’s events. I’ve shaved my head for two years now, and have raised more than $4,500 for the foundation. I’m shaving it in solidarity with my wife again this winter. Since my coworkers call me a human Chia Pet, it will grow back in time to be shaved again in March 2011.
One of Basin Electric’s inspirations was Amber DesRoches, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 11. She lost her battle in December 2007, just 15 years old. But her legacy and gift to Bismarck will live on in Amber’s Dream, a Peter Pan-inspired renovation of the children’s hospital at Medcenter One in Bismarck. Amber felt that kids who are sick and in the hospital should still be able to be kids. Her dream will give them that opportunity. Basin Electric and rural electric cooperatives donated $80,000 to the project, which has already raised more than half of the nearly $1 million it needs.
So as we hang pink streamers and wear our pink ribbons and bracelets in October, let’s not forget that cancer doesn’t discriminate: people or body parts. Remember to Think Before You Pink. It’s about our actions, not the color ribbon we wear.
Below are videos of Basin Electric’s past St. Baldrick’s events. We have raised more than $340,000 to date.