Acting before we pink, remembering September always leads to October.
It is September and it is almost October…it is almost breast cancer awareness month. Right here in the Rettew household, we have enough breast cancer awareness to last us a lifetime, and our house is not filled with pink marketing, but the stories sewn from the many battles we have faced the last ten years.
It is September 15, 2016; nine years ago today, Sarah and I came home from the Clemson/Furman football game to visit her mom, we knew the moment we walked in the door the end was near. Mrs. Denise’s breast cancer had spread to her brain and she lost her ability to effectively communicate. Nine years ago today, tonight was a tough night.
As I am sitting hear writing these very words, Sarah lays in bed fighting her own battle. She lays in bed living up to the memory of her wonderful mother. She lays in bed after having gone through a breast reduction surgery yesterday, almost reducing her chances of ever having breast cancer by upwards of 60%. She is fighting the pain on the outside and probably fighting the tears back on the inside.
She knows in two days, it will be the nine year anniversary of her mother’s passing. She knows her mother was a fighter, she fought to her very last breathe. On September 17, 2007, Mrs. Sarah Denise Weathers passed away as her daughters whispered in her ears that it was ok. We stood there and watched the glue of the family leave this earth.
Rosebud has been spending the night with Sarah’s sister Jennifer and their family. Jennifer is the middle child and much like her mother, fire and commitment for her family. She feels it…she feels August, then September, then October. She get’s anxious leading up to the month of her mother’s passing, then combined with the reminder of the disease that took her life all the way through pink October, anxious commitment to help. Rosebud is sleeping safely tonight with her Aunt JenJen so I can take care of her mother. There is so much interwoven.
As I think about Rosebud…I think about Sarah and her magical way of being a mother, she knows the right words for the right time. She finds grace in her approach to her daily mother duties from CEO of the house, CFO of the house finances, to COO of the daily household operations, and finally CCO…chief communications officer to Rosebud. She knows the right way at the right time to explain what needs to be said so Rose can understand.
As we sat on the couch last Saturday, she pulled Rose closely and shared with her the upcoming surgery. She explained that she was going to have surgery to help her not get cancer. She shared how her mother is now in heaven and she wanted to do everything she could to spend as much time with Rose as possible. She shared how she was going to have some bruises but they will heal just like the bruises Rosebud gets when she falls down. She explains the doctor was a wonderful lady doctor who was going to take care of her. Rose asked, “Is it Doctor Hart,” her pediatrician? Sarah said, “No, it is Dr. Felice Moody.” Rose replied, “That is a funny name! Moody Boody Moody Boody.” Sarah snickered then shared how to hug softly so that we don’t hurt mommy after surgery.
The next day at church, Rose walked right into the hall, looked at the lady and proudly exclaimed, “My mommy is having surgery so she will not get cancer! Would you like to see my book.” Sarah’s mouth about dropped and everyone giggled. Rosebud has brought that funny childhood humor into a month of seriousness and anxiousness.
Cancer used to be a state of mind, a deep dark place where families visit yet have a hard time escaping. For years this family would celebrate holidays in different ways even avoiding times that bring back memories of sadness. Mrs. Denise loved the fall and also loved Christmas, so August is the beginning of that downward approach to those holiday months that bring back happy, sad, funny, goofy, and hard memories lost by cancer.
Here I sit, crying as I write these words. Reflecting on the irony. Sarah is laying in bed with stitches from one side of her chest to the other. She is healing. She is fighting breast cancer the only way she knows how, proactively. She is fighting to see Rosebud grow up to have children of her own. She is fighting a disease she knows she will probably get. She is fighting what her mother wanted so bad to fight, but did not have the knowledge to know where to begin.
We do not need pink just for breast cancer. We wear pink in this house to celebrate what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a girl, a family that finds awareness of a cancer bigger than the color pink. We don’t buy pink to fill the pockets of the marketing engine, we would rather use those dollars to invest in people like Dr. Moody whose commitment is to help bring women like Sarah a few more years and more chances not to have this horrible disease. We spend our dollars on technology that will detect the smallest bump. We spend our time doing rather than saying.
We know…because September leads to October and it is time to celebrate what we have learned from those who have walked this path before us.
It is time to change…to change September. From a month of sadness, to a month of gladness. To a time of the year that brings hope. Hope that the fall season will no longer be overshadowed by Mrs. Denise’s death yet of the legacy she left for Sarah to fight the new fight and live a longer life.
This post was written in honor of Mrs. Sarah Denise Weathers, mother of Sarah Frances Rettew, grandmother of Rose Frances Rettew. We miss you.