Colors and one month don’t always capture the pain


Maine enjoys a luxury only a few New England states can claim. We have colors. We have an abundance of trees, rolling hills and endless vistas. We have the topography to tease the soul.

There’s something about October that freezes the imagination. Maybe it’s the reality that summer is behind us, the little humidity we do get a distant memory. Our thoughts about the upcoming winter months, where character lessons are built and chopped logs are burned, will just have to wait.

This month, at least, belongs to Mother Nature, whose canopies of color bring us to our neurological senses, well aware the quilt that is painted before our eyes is a soothing reminder of our own human limitations.

But for all the beauty, tranquility and bucolic feel that define October in Maine, there are at least two colors – pink and purple – that for all their individual beauty harbor the painful thoughts of two nefarious elements of life, domestic violence and breast cancer.

October has long been designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Most credit for that belongs to the Susan B. Komen Foundation, which has been the point organization tackling this debilitating and deadly illness. The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., has been equally diligent in its pursuit of a cure.

As individuals and families reflect this month, it is not so much a time to wallow as it is to wonder about the possibility that one day we will find a cure for a disease that kills women of all ages, ethnicities and preferences. To be sure, breast cancer is the consummate leveler when it comes to who is detected with it, who is treated for it and, ultimately, who either lives with it or dies from it.

Breast cancer statistics yield a sobering story. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.’s website, 1 out of 8 women will be detected with breast cancer in their lifetimes. Digest that figure for a moment.

One in eight. Imagine walking up Main Street in downtown Norway, and encountering eight women of various ages. See them dipping in and out of the various storefronts. Count them. Then stop at eight.

There you have it. A statistical marker now breathes.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Breast cancer isn’t blackĀ  and white, a curious metaphor considering breast cancer’s non-discriminationg nature. But the numbers speak for themselves. Think one in eight.

In its online literature, the foundation suggests having a plan that detects the disease in its early stages. That’s sound advice. Many women’s lives have been saved.

As Americans grapple with the effects of the government shutdown at home and unrest around the globe, October moves along with brisk breezes and fancy colors. Meanwhile, non-profit organizations and civic minded entities remind us all of the devastation brought on by breast cancer.

It all makes you wonder.

We wonder what could happen if the same singular focus that is placed on sports, athletic competition and entertainment was placed on finding a cure for breast cancer.

What would happen if a professional football team learned that one in eight of its star athletes was likely to contract a debilitating illness that would inevitably cut his career short?

What would happen if Hollywood discovered that one in eight of its brightest stars developed an illness similar to that of Michael J. Fox and his battle with Parkinson’s Disease?

What would happen if male dominated industries and careers suddenly found their ranks depleted because of a yet-to-be-found cure evading every attempt to cure it?

These are not questions likely to be answered. The issue hasn’t hit home yet. But such a scenario is never that farfethced.

We can print and wear all the buttons available to us. We can select all the vanity and special license plates to show we are individually committed to tackling this deadly illness. We can wear the buttons, sport the decals and promote the ribbons. But ultimately, it will take a collective call and a collective drive to not just make a dent but to actually slay the monster.

Until the United States, with is wealth of resources and its intellecual wherewithal, makes a fervent commitment to address the call for even more breast cancer research, we will continue to scratch our heads over the loss of so many lives and the lost of unlimited opportunities.

Breast cancer doesn’t have to win. Polio didn’t. What’s needed in this day and age are things beyond the catchy slogans, the 5K races and the tragic stories of those who’ve paid the ultimate price.

What we all need in the battle against breast cancer is a much needed war, similar to other medical and social wars waged in the past against even more nefarious illnesses. Only this time, let us never concede to the illness. Let us rise to the possibility of victory. In the throes of any other outcome, the price is far too high, no matter what month happens to be on the calendar.

Advertiser Democrat Editorial Board