I teach musical theatre to over sixty students at the Barlow Arts Conservatory (where they mostly conduct amazing ballet training). My pupils range in age from four-years-old to young teenagers, though most are younger than ten. One student is male.
Basically, I’m SURROUNDED by pink. My youngest class wears their pink ballet uniforms (including frou-frou pink hair ornaments galore in their obligatory hair buns), the rest often choose pink warm-ups to wear over their black leotards. Then there are the ubiquitous pink ballet shoes (when they aren’t showing off their cool, cool jazz boots for my class) and “ballet” pink tights. The older girls, naturally, have soft pairs, but also their treasured pointe shoes – pink ribbons required.
Now consider this:
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the United Sates and is the leading cause of cancer death among women age forty to fifty-nine. It is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death among women.
Breast cancer accounts for one of every three cancer diagnoses in women. Nearly 200,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year and about 40,000 will die from breast cancer this year. An additional 60,000 new cases of in situ breast cancer are expected to occur among women this year.*
This week, I had breast cancer weighing heavily on my mind. Foremost was the recent breast cancer diagnosis of the mother of my wonderful and exotic friend, Terry. Also, I’ve been advocating online each day this week for Go Pink for October (Thank you Matthew Oliphant! And you, too, can be his FAN. Officially).
I started thinking about my students. The American Cancer Society says, “The chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some time in a woman’s life is about 1 in 8 (12%).” And that’s not counting the cases of carcinoma in situ (the non-invasive and earliest form of breast cancer). If I round down my number of students to sixty, that means seven of them are likely to develop invasive breast cancer in their lives. If we extrapolate that to their mothers, grand-mothers, aunts, sisters, cousins and so on, the probability of these girls (Jack as well) experiencing breast cancer second-hand is mind-bogglingly high. At some point I’ll address the reality that Jack, too, could get breast cancer himself.
But for now, let’s stick for the most part to the present. I lost a beautiful friend last summer to breast cancer, and she was only two years my senior. No one should die of breast cancer before they are even forty. No one should die of breast cancer.
That’s why it’s time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and time to GO PINK FOR OCTOBER. You know you want to. We MUST raise awareness about breast cancer symptoms, breast cancer risk factors, preventive care, treatments and research.
I, personally, promise that I will shout from the roof-tops about breast cancer in hope for my leotard-bedecked students, in hope for my wonderful niece, Sarah, whose Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (even AFTER a complete response to treatment) puts her at higher risk for breast cancer – not just because of the radiation therapy but because of the Hodgkin’s itself, in hope for my friends, family and colleagues, in support of the continuing breast cancer treatment of women like Dr. Lisa Cannon-Albright, a former boss of mine and, ironically, a member of the research team that identified the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (which are involved in the majority of the 5-10% of all breast cancer cases that genetically-linked, and their involvement entails HUGE increased incidence of young, family-linked and insidiously fatal cases), and in loving remembrance of those who have succumbed to breast cancer as Kari did.
*Information quoted from Susan G. Komen for the Cure website. Please visit for a wealth of additional information.
Many, MANY thanks to Jessie for patiently standing en pointe – and in dead pointe shoes – while I took approximately one zillion photographs.