I was sitting in the chair, wondering what I should do. Should I get the pink feather/hair extension in my hair, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or was it juvenile and I was far too old to don such an accessory in my ‘do? It was puzzling, this thought, I truly didn’t know what to do.
And then, I thought of why I was there in the first place. We all can point to someone we know, love and possibly call family who has been afflicted with this terrible disease. The latest statistic I have heard, in fact, is that one in a little less than eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime – one in less than eight! Unbelievable, unacceptable.
For me, though, it was not just a statistic that scared me into participating in Anthony Garubo’s fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Rather, it was a much more personal connection that drove me into the salon Monday morning. Unfortunately for me, and my family, we have our own loss to mourn each October during Breast Cancer Awareness month.
In 1988, at the young age of 46, my mother lost her seven-year battle with breast cancer; I was only 18. It was, and still is, a loss that was deep and profound; a loss that I really didn’t fully understand until I was much older. When my mother was originally diagnosed, there was no such thing as the Susan G. Komen Foundation, breast cancer was a disease that was whispered about and not discussed in polite company. Medical science was nowhere near what it is now in terms of conquering this disease. My mother had the bad luck of being diagnosed at the wrong time in medical history.
Thinking back to when she was alive, I am reminded of the youthful joy that my mother always demonstrated in her daily life. My mom was always the life of the party, the jokester in the group, and the lady that most women wanted to call their friend. I always loved being with her at a party, it was fun watching her make everyone laugh, and enjoying herself so fully. If you know me, you’ll recognize my mother’s joie de vivre in me.
Joan Carol Mathews, or Joni to her friends, was a woman who always wanted to know what was the latest trend, the latest fashion, the latest way to stay young. A few years before she passed, Joni decided she wanted to go back to school and finish her four-year degree. So, thinking herself 18 again, my mother hitched on her backpack, drove to university, and made loads of friends. Her friends were so infatuated with her that they asked her to join their sorority – that’s right, my mother was hanging with young sorority girls, and having the time of her life.
So as I sat there, pondering what to do about this silly pink hair extension and if I was too old for such nonsense, I thought to myself, “What would Mom Do?” And you know what? I walked out of that salon with a pink feather in my hair, head held high, cheers’ing my mother all the way. Here’s to you, Mom! I know you’d approve of the pink feather in my hair, and so I wear it in your honor!
If you see me around town, pink feather/hair extension flailing in the wind, please don’t judge me or think I’m going through a mid-life crisis, I’m just celebrating life in the youthful fashion of my mom!
 American Cancer Society, 9/29/2011