An Admiration of Breasts

Like a pimply-faced teenager, I find myself once again consumed with breasts. It has been nearly 35 years since I went from a jostling, happy 12 year-old to a smug, confused teenager who finally noticed there was a difference between his buddies and the girl next door. Ah, Dawn Holstead. For so many years, Dawn played the same sports and games the rest of we boys did. She pretty much dressed like us and besides having longer hair, she looked a great deal like us. Since it was the 70’s, even shaggy hair wasn’t a great differentiator.

Then one day, I noticed she was…different. It was like something grew overnight. Yes, Dawn had started her inevitable change into a woman. Things got really dicey after that. Her ascent into womanhood was very inconvenient in the neighborhood because she decided to go all out and be a girly-girl instead of our fourth man. Two-on-two basketball became one-on-one with someone sitting out. We didn’t have even teams for football anymore so Tommy had to be all-time quarterback and we needed extra invisible men for baseball. So while I was glad to have an attractive neighbor with breasts, it kinda stunk on the playground.

One of the most embarrassing things I ever did revolved around breasts. It was totally innocent. Seriously! I promise! I was in the most awkward of all teenage hangouts – the school cafeteria. Being the new kid, I was pretty excited to have recently made friends with the popular and gorgeous Tracy Brinks. One day in the lunch line, Tracy turned around to say hello to me wearing a mohair sweater. What should the new kid desperate to impress do? He should compliment her clothes, of course. Only he should not reach out his hand to touch said clothes. Yup. I innocently reached out to give a tactile compliment to her sweater and found my hand resting squarely on her breast… in the lunch room… in front of the whole high school. I swear I had no intention of doing it. Really, I didn’t. It was so incredibly awkward. Tracy earned sainthood that day in my eyes because she didn’t have me hauled to the principal’s office. Of course, I couldn’t look her in the eye for months.

And now, in my middle age, I find myself admiring breasts again. It isn’t for the same reasons I did in my youth. It’s not the size, shape, or elasticity that intrigue me nor is this a rousing game of Real or Fake. No, it is not visual this time around. What I can’t get out of my head is the way they dominate the conversation in October. God Bless the Breast, you can’t get away from them. Pink is everywhere. Everywhere! Cheerleaders aside, think you’ll get away from them by watching an NFL game? Think again! Breasts have left the sideline and are now bouncing on the playing field with socks, sweat towels, and wristbands. When I was a teen I would have probably been slapped for complimenting a girl’s tatas and now soccer moms in minivans sport bumper stickers asking me to save them. October 15th now stands to surpass Christmas as the favorite day for pre-pubescent boys since it has been declared No Bra Day.

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Kudos to this young man for his interest in breast cancer awareness.

While I admittedly do admire the breast, my true admiration is for the marketing genius who wrangled the breasts out of their bras and into the social consciousness.

Say what you want about the current state of the foundation involved, they did an incredible job of creating awareness for breast cancer. For whatever reason, our childhood cancer counterparts haven’t seemed to rival their acumen. More people are going gold in September now and there is a trend toward more awareness of the leading killer of children. But even before October started I was asked by three stores if I wanted to buy a pink bag or donate a dollar to research. Wait, September is our month!

Good for you breasts, not only do you command 21% of public research dollars according the National Cancer Institute (compared to the children’s 3.8%), you pull in a much larger percentage of the private money as well.

I am not here to compare cancers. Any cancer is bad cancer – they all deserve research and I pray we find a cure for each and every one. But as a parent who has lost a child to cancer, I can’t help but notice the disparity between the pink and gold movements. We say we value our children, but do we?

The Captain of the SS Cancer sees the iceberg and cries out “Women and children first”, but for some reason the lifeboat is stuffed with breasts and we’ve not saved room for the drowning children who will never mature to grow them!

I wonder why? Is it because women have them and men think of them every 4.6 seconds on average? Is it because adults don’t typically get childhood cancers so those in power only focus on what affects their own lives? Or is it because one foundation grabbed society by the shorts and made them focus on breasts while children seem to have literally hundreds of disconnected organizations shouting different messages?

I don’t know. I’m not bright enough to figure this one out. I’m new to this cancer thing. After all, we only had ten months from diagnosis to my daughter’s death. I didn’t have time to think about awareness and funding. I only thought about the fight for her survival. Yet I can’t help but wonder if someone had organized a similar unified, organized campaign twenty years ago for childhood cancer, would it have yielded a more effective treatment for Kylie? Likewise, if our national priority truly was for children as our future, would she have one?

So Go Pink and Yay Breasts. I assure you, I have always been a big fan. But somehow can’t we figure out a way to be gold too? The children who nursed on them are counting on us.

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33 thoughts on “An Admiration of Breasts

  1. As a breast cancer survivor and now with no breasts, I absolutely say KUDOS to You, for writing this post! I also has leukemia as a child, so I’ve been through both. I stand with you and just pray that we will begin to see more FIGHT for the Gold. And, it begins with folks who write about it, who get out and shout for the children!
    Thanks, for this post! _Jo

    1. Wow, you’ve been through it, haven’t you? I ant them all cured, for sure. But I don’t understand the obvious disparity we find ourselves in. We just have to keep marching, screaming, and fighting. People have to hear!

  2. Reblogged this on This Grey Matters Blog and commented:
    I had the honor of meeting Mark in DC last month. I always appreciate his blog posts, but none more than this. Please get involved. It doesn’t matter how busy you are. You can register your grocery shopping card to benefit research, or recycle, or just post more on social media. Every action brings us more awareness and closer to the cure.

  3. Lord was I hoping I wasn’t making a mistake clicking to open this article…but Kykie’s name was mentioned, so I clicked.
    And I’m so glad I did.

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been a lifelong fan of the underdog and the unsung ( heck, our family are al Mets fans!) , and I’ve always thought along similar lines:
    ALL forms of cancer are terrible,horrible,monstrous,vile. ALL forms of cancer are stealers of life and love and laughter. ALL forms of cancer need funding to assist in the research of treatment,prevention and destruction of the horrible “c” word , in all its forms.
    Breast cancer researchers have fantastic marketing teams and totally inspiring and encompassing fundraising and awareness-raising methods. And that is to be commended!!
    But ALL cancers kill people. Babies, children, friends, cousins,parents, relatives…. We have all lost so many precious lives. I’m going gold now and forever. I’ve never met Kylie or Shayla or Gabriella or Delaney or Talia, but my deepest fear is that my own children or their children will be living the daily fears and tears of a cancer-poisoned life. And I know that a pretty pink ribbon, or a pretty gold ribbon, doesn’t ease tears and fears. I hope, pray, donate money and time, and hope daily that soon there will be awareness and education and eradication of beast cancer for sure, but ALL childhood cancers and all cancers that arrack our bodies and our lives.
    Every day I send a Smile for Kylie out into the universe. Because of your voices, Kylie and Shayla and Gabriella and Delaney and Talia and all children and their families battling cancer ARE being heard! Sending hugs…😊💛😊

    1. Thank you so much Beth. I am glad you clicked. I don’t share anything off-color on Kylie’s page. I can be accused of writing it occasionally. I pray we can be the voice for those beautiful girls and many others who can no longer lift theirs. Blessings.

  4. Mark, your bring a humanity and balance here – all without offending anyone and with more than a smidgeon of humour. It is not often I see a piece of writing that manages that when talking about terminal illnesses. I have no answers to offer, Just one thought. You have both the talent and the pain. Yet you have something greater. You have a way of seeing the world that makes that world smile as it cries. God bless Kylie and each of you. Childhood cancers need you. I wish they didn’t. ((hugs))

    1. Paul, that means the world to me. What a compliment. I have what I’ve heard termed a reluctant calling and I am searching for how both God and the childhood cancer community will use it. Kylie’s is a broader story than cancer. It is one of stealing joy from horrendous circumstances. That’s a lesson we could all use. I’m sure there is more to come. The right door will open.

      1. “It is one of stealing joy from horrendous circumstances” – I wonder if the “community” might just have been given their unifying message in that sentence.

  5. As a breast cancer survivor (two years) I think I can say you are correct. Why this variance between cancer(s) financial support? I cannot imagine your loss. Is it simply the public supporting this cause? Why isn’t the government funding this research?

  6. Mark,

    When I found your blog, I felt I was given a gift for the thought provoking sensitive topics as well as your ability to provide humor, where Appropriate. I have long said to family, friends, and acquaintances, that the CHILDHOOD CANCER COMMUNITY, needs that one person who can ignite the world and the month of September like the world is on fire for October. I too, want a cure for many different adult cancers that took the lives of important people in my life. However, Childhood Cancer takes precedence over everything for me and I just was a Play Lady for many years. People, like you and your family who have watched their child die, I have no idea of your feelings. Watching the entire world go pink in October is great but I want this world to go gold in September. The other 11 months, I want people to recognize the importance of doing more to make CHILDHOOD CANCER ADVOCACY for better treatments, more psychosocial support, a reality. I will always be sorry Kylie died and left the hole in your family’s heart. Your blog is a gift to all who are lucky enough to read it. Margy

    1. Thank you Margy. I’m not sure who that person is, but we’ll find him or her! Until then, we will do our part to be a voice. Thanks again and it was so great to meet you in DC.

  7. A short note: The five year old son of my wife’s niece had been experiencing nausea and dizziness for weeks. After being repeatedly told by ER physicians that he had a “bug”, her niece took him to the Mayo (thank God Rochester is only forty miles away) where he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Surgeons removed a walnut sized tumor within hours of diagnosis. Connor is now going through chemo – and not doing too badly.

    We not only need effective treatments for childhood cancer but we need better detection methods and improved protocols for diagnosis. The Mayo said that if he had not come in when he did, he would have died within days.

    1. Wow Greg. Prayers for his complete recovery. I’m so glad he got there when he did. And I couldn’t agree more. We had trouble getting through to doctors the extent of her pain. I don’t know if an earlier diagnosis would have changed anything, we would drive ourselves crazy speculating. But it would have lessened the horrible pain she went through.

  8. Mark – wow great blog! You’re an awesome writer. We miss sweet Kyle being part of 8th grade at PCS. Continuing to pray for you guys!

  9. Your titles always get me LOL And while we are on the subject of colors…I’m all for purple for Alzheimers. It’s frustrating that some diseases get more money and attention than others. I have no idea why. Hugs to you btw

  10. Very simply said – you are right on all counts! All are guilty as charged. But, honestly, if a parent such as yourself, had been affected to the extent you were by Childhood Cancer sooner there possibly could have been a different outcome for Kylie! I did not know of Kylie until my niece, Valerie Phipps Williams,shared your post one morning early on. I think you all were in the same Church at one time. I have come to feel you are someone I know and I am awestruck with your family’s ability to function while not fully understanding the Plan. The Kylie Family courage is monumental and through you, with God’s help, I believe greater things than now will happen. Enough people have to start valuing the life of the unborn and the child. Apparently, not too many remember the eminence of the children in God’s Kingdom. I am relatively poor in the scheme of things, and lacking physical abilities but I would love to know what I could be doing to assist in other ways. If you have a plan in that regard, please let me know. Please keep on keeping on, you are a blessing to many!

  11. OMG, Mark! I have to comment on every one of your posts because they are just so spot on! I told your wife in DC that it is amazing to see how many different foundations they are and what great things they do but just imagine if they all worked together!!!

  12. Over here we have ‘children in need’ and they raise money for all sorts of issues. It helps to have one unifying voice asking for support rather many different ones, plus breast cancer awareness have been really clever in their marketing.

  13. My fellow Georgian, this is such a great post on so many levels. I suspect your voice will speak volumes for voices yet unheard. Your point is sadly all too true. A change has gotta come…

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