Pink: the color of courage and hope

I have always been intrigued by symbolism. Analyzing symbolism can lead to a deeper understanding of poetry, literature and the author behind a specific literary work.

But symbolism can go beyond the realms of literature to objects that are widely accepted to stand for a larger movement.

For instance, imagine a yellow ribbon. In 1973, ?Tie a Yellow Ribbon ?Round the Ole Oak Tree? was a popular song. And most understood the deep significance of the yellow ribbon?it was symbolic of waiting for a loved one to return, and more specifically, it represented people serving in the military who were unable to return home.

Along those same lines, a pink ribbon is used to symbolize breast cancer awareness. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has used pink since its inception in 1982. In the years since, a pink ribbon has come to represent the fight against breast cancer.

When my grandma was 50, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent surgery for a mastectomy. The doctors were able to remove all the cancer, and she needed no further treatments. And while she?s suffered other health problems in recent years, she is a cancer survivor. She fought and won a difficult battle.

On the other hand, Chrissy, a niece of my aunt and uncle, was 32 when she was diagnosed. She fought a hard fight. She traveled to New York for treatments, she altered her diet to where she ate only organic and natural foods, she attended therapy class with fellow cancer patients in order to help cope with the emotions that come with fighting cancer. She took the right steps. But the cancer spread and she lost her difficult battle.

I met Chrissy only once, but I remember thinking how beautiful she was, shaved head and all, and how full of life she seemed.

I know I could tell many more stories. According to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Web site, 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2009. The expectancy for men is much lower, at 1,910 new cases.

October is breast cancer awareness month. It?s a good time to don some pink-knowledge and take care of ourselves, our mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, friends and neighbors:

n Breast cancer accounts for one in four cancers diagnosed in women.

n In the United States, one woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes; one woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes.

n An estimated 40,170 U.S. women will die from breast cancer in 2009; an estimated 440 men will die.

n In the United States, 80 to 90 percent of breast cancers in women without symptoms will be detected by mammography.

n There are about 2.5 million breast cancer survivors alive in the United States (source: ww5.komen.org).

Those statistics are scary. But the good news: there are preventative measures to take.

The Mayo Clinic says that limiting alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active can help decrease risk of breast cancer. It is also recommended that women 40 and older get a mammogram every one to two years.

Breast cancer is prevalent in our world today. Skin cancer aside, it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. But by taking a stand, pouring money into research and telling the stories of survivors and angels, breast cancer cases may start to decline.

Pink isn?t for the weak. Pink-knowledge is power.