What Color Is Your World?

I love the color teal.  To me, it is a “happy” color, and I always seem to gravitate to it.  In fact, the t-shirts I sell after my presentations are teal.  No special reason I chose that color except teal makes me happy, and so I thought it would make others happy too.

However, in November 2011, teal took on a completely different meaning.  I found out teal was the color for ovarian cancer awareness, and means Take Early Action and Live.  Crazy. I’m a woman and could be susceptible to ovarian cancer, but didn’t know the first sign or symptom. I’d never known anyone with ovarian cancer, or even heard of someone with the disease.

That changed when one of my very best friends was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  Tracy, who had just turned 40 two months earlier, found out that her nausea, her bloating, her gastro problems weren’t gastro-intestinal at all.  She had ovarian cancer.  Suddenly, the color teal became important in a whole different way.

This year alone, one in 71 women will develop ovarian cancer. One in 71.  How did I not know this?  Why have I been so concerned about breast exams and mammograms, but never once considered asking for a CA-125 screening test for ovarian cancer?  I don’t know. Maybe it’s because ovarian cancer accounts for only 3% of all the cancers in women in the United States. Maybe it’s because the median age is 63.  Maybe it’s because this type of cancer doesn’t have prominent signs and symptoms.  Maybe these are all reasons ovarian cancer is known as “the silent killer.”

Presently, the color teal takes me to the two rows of leather recliners in the treatment room where I sit with Tracy as she’s intravenously given her combination of chemotherapy drugs. Teal is with me as I see the women in their wigs or caps or scarves putting on their brave faces, even when I see the pain in their eyes.  Teal is with me as I overhear them talk about their nausea or the achiness in their bones from the rounds of chemo.  I listen to the advice and the encouragement they give each other as they talk about what’s to come with treatment or how the disease affects their lives.

Teal is also with me as I pass through the waiting room, and give friends and family members of other patients a faint smile and a knowing glance. None of us know what to do or how to help.  All we know is we want the same thing, for our friends and family to live and to be happy, and never give up hope.

It is funny how a color can mean so much with a little change in circumstances.  Interesting how what was not relevant in my life four months ago has now become a passionate cause.

Take Early Action and Live.  Teal.  The color of hope, of awareness, of life.

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