Monday, September 15, 2008

Reading T-shirts

When my sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer this past April, it came as a shock and with much sadness and fear. I've said it a thousand times- my kids have the greatest set of aunts and uncles ever. My sister-in-law, their Aunt Jane, is the perfect example. She's smart, successful, fun, funny, loving, generous, glamorous, and reads comics. What more could a niece or nephew ask for? Needless to say, it was a difficult task explaining to my kids that their aunt had cancer. I, of course, went to my go-to, the library, and also searched for books about the topic online. I couldn't find anything that seemed like it would help. Yes, I did find some useful articles, mostly to answer the inevitable scientific questions my oldest son would have: What exactly is a tumor? How does it start? How does the chemotherapy treat it? Unfortunately, I didn't find much reading material that addressed the emotional situation the kids were now in. There were no books out there that could explain or remedy the powerlessness I know the older two especially feel.

Well, we found our helpful reading material yesterday. We read T-shirts and posters and they gave us so much to think about and discuss. Yesterday, along with my sister-in-law, her husband, and many of their friends, my daughter and I walked in the Susan G. Komen Foundation's Race for the Cure 5K in New York City's Central Park. My husband and sons enthusiastically cheered us on. Boy, did the T-shirts we saw give us lots to talk about as we walked, starting with the official event shirt on my back which read, "The greatest risk factors for breast cancer are being female and growing older." We talked about how that explains why so many women participate to make a difference. We read many sobering shirt backs that listed who the walkers and runners were doing it in memory of. I explained that phrase "in memory of." When we saw one shirt that told us its wearer was walking in memory of a mother, grandmother, and sister, Hayden literally stopped walking for a minute to digest that. We talked about how that woman might have felt good about remembering those family members and good that she was doing something to help other families. We discussed the shirts that say, "I walk in celebration of___________." We talked about how we were celebrating her aunt and how special she is. Speaking of celebrating, we especially enjoyed all of the shirts that said "Survivor," "Joyous Survivor of 5 Years" and the like. That is the kind of reading material I had been looking for back in April and May. And, of course we talked about boobs. Leave it to a few thousand women not just to walk for a cause but to have saucy fun doing it. For her eight years of life, I think my daughter has only heard me refer to the area between my neck and rib cage as my chest. Yesterday I got to be a walking breast thesaurus as we saw shirts that said "Save the ta ta's," "Nic's Knockers" and more. Hayden could now tell you that boobs, boobies, bosom, the girls, the sisters, and second base all refer to breasts. I kind of cheated on the second base one and told her it's because some people think they look like baseballs. There was lots to read and discuss from signs as well. Some had quotes from the great poets ee cummings and John Lennon. Others had witty encouragements on them. Our favorite, however, was composed by my five year old son, and it said, "Go Everybody." It made us all feel a bit less powerless at least for the day.

And, of course, I came home with a book recommendation. Jane's friend Laurie, an enthusiastic and smart third grade teacher also walking with us, highly recommends Julie Andrews Edwards' The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles for a family read aloud. It's supposed to be good, fun fiction, and we all need some of that too.


Jane said...

What can I say other than "Thank you for walking" and for discussing breast cancer with your family! I had to laugh about your explanation of second base and have to admit I am filled with hope knowing that at least three of the adults of the future are aware of breast cancer and how it affects not only those with the diagnosis. Much love to all of you!

Teacherninja said...

Sweet! Go everybody, indeed!