Tuesday after leaving the surgeon's office, I looked up Breast Cancer Action SF, and read an essay by a woman who had done everything right and found nothing had changed: No Cure.
This morning, her words were still in my head, and I remembered attending a reading years ago of James Engelhardt's play, Rattus Rattus. It is a story about The Black Plague or some other plague that nobody could cure. It seems people of the time were carrying nosegays in front of their faces, perhaps to distract them from the smells of death, or perhaps to ward off the possibility of the disease attacking through the air. I'm sure the flower vendors had a thriving business. And in spite of the fear and the death, somewhere in the background I'm sure a jester was singing:
Ring around the rosy
Pocket full of posies
We all fall down.
Now centuries later we're pretty sure posies won't do it. Instead, we carry around pink ribbons on our cars, our clothes, our gifts, our jewelry. And there is a thriving business for vendors of anything with a pink ribbon on it. Even on a mammogram machine! But to be sure their business was thriving, until 2000 one company that manufactures breast cancer medicine also manufactured a carcinogenic herbicide, acetochlor.
Hospitals give literature for "runs" and "walks" from companies that won't tell where the money went, and that still manufacture products that may make the plague worse.
We run, we walk, and on Mother's Day, we remember the ones the pink ribbons didn't help.
Too many still fall down.