October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and everywhere I look I see pink. I picked up a sales circular for an office supply store from the Sunday paper and was blasted with a jolt of pink. These days you can buy pink phones or bikes or yogurt and a portion of the proceeds support breast cancer research and awareness. The pink items are part of the fundraising done by Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In the last few years Komen and breast cancer have become closely associated with the color pink.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for breast cancer awareness and research, but I have often wondered at how this happened. It’s amazing, really; the color pink on a product immediately brings to mind the fight against this deadly disease.
Today, Nancy G. Brinker, the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure was on the Oprah show. This was the first time I have really heard the story of Susan G. Komen. She was 33 years old when diagnosed with breast cancer in the 70s. Before she died she made her sister Nancy promise she would do everything in her power to fight the disease. Out of that promise grew the amazing organization that has done so much for beginning to tame this disease.
As I listened to Nancy talk about what it was like for Susan and her family as she was struggling with the disease in the 70s it struck me how much it mirrored what my family went through when Mom was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD.) Nancy talked about the lack of support groups, information, and understanding at the time. That is what it is like for LBD patients and their families now.
Today breast cancer is well known. Information is more abundant and because of the work of Nancy Brinker women don’t have to feel so alone when the diagnosis comes. Pink has succeeded in giving a face to this illness.
When Mom was diagnosed with LBD we found the Lewy Body Dementia Association. This young organization is working to increase research and raise awareness of the disease but we still have a long way to go. As with so many causes these days the LBD as well as the Alzheimer’s Association has taken a color to signify their fight. For the groups fighting dementia that color is purple. During recent Memory Walks for the Alzheimer’s Association purple balloons, t-shirts and banners were everywhere. For years I have been curious about how to get people to know purple like they do pink.
Today I learned how Nancy took her family's fight and turned it into a nationwide initiative. It’s a lofty thought, but as I watched I formulated ways of moving our fight into the same type of nationwide initiative. I don’t want to draw attention from breast cancer, but I do want to draw attention to the plight of dementia sufferers. In a perfect world this wouldn’t be necessary. I live in an imperfect world and so I have decided to wave my purple banner high.
Someday people will see purple and know that dementia is a horrendous disease. People will be able to purchase a purple phone or bike or yogurt and know that their money is supporting something important. They will understand that their jokes about having Alzheimer’s really aren’t that funny. They will understand and the stigma associated with dementia will begin to disappear. They will understand that others have walked this road and they don’t have to walk alone.
For more information about Lewy Body Dementia please visit the LBDA website