The Color Pink: Awareness

Editor’s Note: The following post is by the lovely Sarah Thebarge. Write that name down. You will want to remember it for 2013 when her book, The Invisible Girls (Jericho Books) is released. Sarah is one of the finest writers I’ve ever had the honor to read. Trust me when I tell you that her book is nothing short of sheer wonder.
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My friend Kristin called me in September and asked me to do the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure walk with her. We’re both breast cancer survivors — she received her diagnosis at age 43. I got mine at age 27. She thought the walk would be a good way to celebrate our lives and all we’ve been through over the past few years.

“I’m not doing that,” I said quickly when she asked. I’ve been avoiding the color pink, and breast-cancer-anything, since my diagnosis. Kristin tried lots of tactics to convince me to do the walk with her. She said it was fun, you got to meet lots of great people, it would raise money for a good cause, and at the end we would get entrance into Survivor City, a white circus tent where you got a catered meal and a goody bag. “Last year they gave out free toilet paper, too,” she said.

I raised my eyebrows.

“Yeah,” she nodded. “I know, it’s pretty great, right? I got twelve rolls for free!”

I told her that when pigs started skating across the frozen surface of hell, I might consider doing the race. And then a few days later she called me and told me she’d just received the diagnosis every woman dreads. Metastatic Breast Cancer

I cancelled my weekend plans and signed up to do the walk with her. The morning of the race, I reached into the recesses of my closet and pulled out all the pink clothing people have given me over the years. A pink hat, pink cargo pants, pink socks. And then I wore the T-shirt you get when you sign up for the race, the one that says in big letters across the front, Survivor.

As we crossed the finish line together, holding hands, I wept. Because the hot flashes, joint pain, insomnia and fatigue from my cancer treatments make every day a challenge. Because the hope I want to feel has been buried under an avalanche of anger and sorrow, and here were tens of thousands of people saying with their presence that they were digging through the pain to find me, and together we were going to stand against the disease that claims 40,000 women’s lives in the U.S. each year.

Now that the race is over, my attention has turned from breast cancer to politics. I’ve started sifting through interview transcripts and articles and video clips to learn more about the candidates and the issues I want to affect with my vote in November.

I practice medicine as a physician assistant, so the health care crisis quickly caught my attention as one of the mosts critical choices our country needs to make in a few weeks. As I read, I learned that anywhere from 26,000-50,000 uninsured Americans die each year from lack of insurance.

Even if you choose the lower estimate, that’s still nearly four times the number of Haitians who have died from cholera since the 2010 earthquake. The higher estimates rival the number of women who die from breast cancer each year. But where’s the fundraiser to solve the metastatic insurance issue? Where’s the collective voice for these citizens who have been denied what the Declaration of Independence said is the first unalienable right of every American: Life.

When I participated in Race for the Cure, I felt the support of so many people who showed up to support me and other breast cancer survivors in our struggles. But who stands with the uninsured who face the threat of dying from significant health crises? Who sees them buried under the avalanche of fear and the threat of financial ruin and tells them, Hang on. We’ll dig through the mess of partisanship and posturing and legislative loopholes until we find you.

If the health care crisis had a ribbon color, it would be translucent. Because it’s the problem that most of us, especially the insured among us, choose not to see. It’s the one we look through on our way to cracking jokes about binders and excessive water consumption. But the reality is, at least three Americans die every hour because we haven’t figured out how to pass the health care reform that could save their lives.

I have been thinking that, just like breast cancer, the health care crisis deserves its own month-long drive to raise awareness, and incite action, on behalf of this systemic malady. But then I realized that November 6th is just around the corner. And maybe we don’t need a month to change our country’s course.

Maybe one day is enough.

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Sarah Thebarge is a speaker and author who grew up as a pastor’s kid in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She earned a masters degree in Medical Science from Yale School of Medicine and was studying Journalism at Columbia University when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27. Her writing has appeared in Christianity Today, BurnsideWriters.com, Relevant, TheOoze.com,Raysd, and Just Between Us. Her writing for Christianity Today‘s This Is Our City project won first prize from the National Evangelical Press Association. Sarah’s memoir The Invisible Girls is scheduled to be released by Jericho Books in 2013. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon.
About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • AFRoger

    Thank you, Sarah. I think I may know Krisitn; and I will pray for you both. I’m the son of a breast cancer survivor. I’m also the son of a colon cancer survivor and a skin cancer survivor. And they are all the same person: my Mom. About 24 hours ago she heard the call she could not resist and said her farewell to this life and was welcomed into that blessed company of all the saints in light. After 105 years, 6 months and 23 days of grace, she now knows it endlessly.
    But those incredible statistics of years, sunrises, breaths and heartbeats only reached to where they did because of the work already done to know cancer and to save life. I will not forget as long as I live, that my mother’s life was extended by at least 40 years, thanks to the efforts of people who long ago said, “I think there may be a way to treat this. Let’s try.” I join you in that tireless effort to make health and life our goal, not the maximizing of earnings or the rationing of care for the sake of dollars.

  • dd

    thank you Sarah, great thought. I am one of the many who have no health insurance. Thankfully I am in good health but all it takes is just one major thing and kaboom you’ve lost everything and hopefully your life isn’t one of them..

  • Rachel

    While the belief that everyone should have heath care coverage is one I agree with and support, the long-term negative effects on our healthcare system from the President’s plan will be devastating. Already doctors offices and hospitals are closing their doors….check into the long term effects before jumping on the wagon for the healthcare plan he has proposed. As a good journalist I’m sure you’ll ask questions of doctors and nurses about the proposed plan. I have and have yet to find any who are all crazy positive about it.

    Thank you for sharing your Walk for a Cure story. It was inspiring!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Wiley/100000703391427 Tom Wiley

    Our Constitution guarantees the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. I don’t read into this a right to Health Care, let alone “free” Health Care paid by “others” or “The RIch”. Neither do I see Health Care mentioned in the scriptures or even Maslo’s Hierarchy of needs.

    I would think far most basic needs of Water and Food would come before Health Care, but at last the political realm is running wild with it.

    While I support Cancer research and the cancer survivors, I no longer support Susan G. Komen because they give money to planned parenthood. There are plenty of avenues to donate money and help fight cancer than giving to a group that has compromised their purpose with political affiliations. I cannot and I will not support abortion of any kind, it is the bane of our age.

    The problem in fact is not the availability of health care, it is the cost! I remember when insurance for my entire family cost a little over $300/month, now it’s $18,000/year and expected to jump another $2,500 to $4,500 next year. My family in Canada pays $78 twice a month for full medical, dental and vision, no co-pays and no deductibles.

    We have good insurance and my wife was supposed to go to the dentist tomorrow to get her tooth fixed, but the deductible is $717 up front, which we just don’t have. I’m in need of a crown and root canal that would cost me $1600. The result is we will travel to Mexico and spend $300-500 out of pocket to get the work done.

    $18,500 in benefits is paid for insurance we can’t even afford to take advantage of, because we can’t afford even the co-pays and deductibles. Health Care is out of control and no government guarantee is going to reign it in.

    • Karl Janzen

      I don’t quite understand this moral argument against health care. (The cost problem not addressed in this comment.) What you’ve just said above is that it’s okay for those 26,000 cancer patients to die without health care because you oppose abortion. How many other tens of thousands are dying with undiagnosed tumors or a thousand other maladies because they have no health care because people oppose abortions?

      I don’t know what province your family in Canada lives in but I’m quite certain their health care pays for abortions. I know ours in Ontario Canada pays for abortions (we pay no premium at all for health care).

      Yes, there is a moral problem and the result is that sick people have to die to support your cause? How do you look someone in the face and tell them that? You can fight abortion without making living people pay the price too.

      • Tom Wiley

        “moral argument against health care.”? No, I just said it wasn’t a basic necessity, nor a “right”. Now if you wanted to make a moral argument, that would be much more defense-able.

        “What you’ve just said above is that it’s okay for those 26,000 cancer patients to die without health care” I didn’t say that either, that’s what you call setting up a straw man. Quite the opposite, I stated I support cancer research and if not for Susan G Komen support of abortion, I would support their cancer research. The fact is no one is actually working on a cure for cancer, they working on “treatments”, because they’re much more profitable. That is unlikely to change with the government take over of the health care industry.


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