Every 13 Minutes A Woman Loses Her Life To Breast Cancer

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • I lie flat on my back, looking into a sky so deep I can imagine myself letting go of the earth and falling into it forever. The boat beneath me rocks gently, tethered to a wooden dock smelling darkly of creosote, bleached silver by years of saltwater. Clouds drift overhead, white brushstrokes across the blue; on the horizon, I can see thunderheads building, as this hot, hazy August Friday heads towards nightfall. Tonight, heavy rain, lightning, and high winds; a front will be moving through. But right now—peace.

    The radio behind me crackles to life. “Steamboat, this is Jarvis. I lost my rudder somewhere in Hull gut or out by Peddocks. If anyone finds it, let me know. Over.” A gull wheels through my line of vision, a silent flicker of white. It’s quiet again. Only the metallic clink-clink-clink of stays hitting masts lets me know the world is still turning.

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    I love to look at the sky and think. And I do it so seldom. You know how it is. Work, family, friends, responsibilities. The need to follow a regimen: exercise in the morning, medications three times a day, constant checking on two online community sites I monitor: teaching people to bake; helping women through breast cancer. Emails that never end; I’m a shoulder to lean on for virtual friends all over the world. And I love it. I feel that at last, I’m where I should be in my life: helping people.

    But sometimes, I need a break. And this golden afternoon on the cusp of late summer, September hovering just out of sight, is equal parts relaxation and recharging. I focus on the deepest part of the sky, and try not to think of anything at all.

    Then, a pink balloon floats into view, high above me. Its string twirls in the light wind, and it bobs and dances, taken by a capricious sea breeze. Within seconds, I think, “Someone’s died. A woman with breast cancer has died.” I watch the balloon rise higher, catching the slanting sun for an instant and then… gone, folded into that vast expanse.

    Why did I immediately think of death when I saw that pink balloon? Before cancer, I would have simply thought, “Aw, some little girl lost her balloon. Poor kid.” And that would have been the end of it. Now, a pink balloon has become a metaphor for death. And for life: the life that continues on after we leave this world.

    So I wonder about that pink balloon. Who died? Was she a mother? A sister? A daughter, a wife, a friend? Probably all of those. She’s left her suffering behind. But the suffering for those still here is just beginning. Because death is a stone cast into water, its ripples extending into time and space until they can no longer be seen. Just like the balloon.

    Some little girl lost that pink balloon, the sea breeze grabbing it out of her uncertain fingers. And somewhere a woman lost her battle with breast cancer as I lay watching the deep August sky. A woman dies of breast cancer just about every 13 minutes here in America.

    That’s an awful lot of pink balloons. And a world of hurt. Pray for the cure.


Published On: August 04, 2008