Monday, October 15, 2012

Colors Signify Diseases

"Remember color crayons? Close your eyes and imagine opening a fresh box. No, seriously. Go ahead and do it. I promise it will come back to you. Can't you just smell those fresh Crayolas? Remember the original eight colors? They were red, yellow, black, brown, green, blue, orange and violet. Give me a box of those crayons and coloring book -- or even a blank piece of paper -- and I could keep myself occupied for hours.
Every once in a while my mama would spring for one of the larger boxes that had silver and gray and turquoise and yellow green and lavender and forest green and colors I didn't recognize. I enjoyed trying to match the colors I encountered in real life with those I found in my 64-count box of Crayola crayons. Of course the crayons didn't stay in pristine condition for long and they didn't stay in the original box for long.
My sister and I would use those crayons up. It didn't take long for them to become so short that we had to peel the paper away to reveal more wax and then the official names -- like magenta and sepia and mulberry -- were lost to us forever. We had some spirited arguments over questions like, did you color Mickey Mouse's shirt sea green or pine green or periwinkle. The one Crayola color I never used was plain old pink. I left that one to my sister because everybody knew pink was a girl's color.
I've worn pink every day this week, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My lovely wife, Lisa, and I have been breast cancer awareness advocates for a long time now. Together we have walked hundreds of miles and raised thousands of dollars for breast cancer research. For a long time the "Think Pink" campaign was the only one I was particularly aware of. Over the past couple of years, however, I have become aware that there is a whole rainbow of cancer awareness colors out there -- or an entire Crayola box full -- and each is extremely important and deserves our attention.
In the U.S. this year there will be 227,000 new cases of breast cancer. That is more than 600 per day. I can now say that I know the fear that goes through each person's mind when they are first diagnosed, and despite the great strides that medical science is making, we will lose almost 40,000 of those battles this year, so we do, indeed, need to continue to think pink.
There are a few other colors we can pay attention to, also.  I also learned that orange is the color of the leukemia awareness ribbon. 
The color for heart disease is red and I was well-fixed to support folks by wearing red.
I'm not a fan of yellow, either, but that is the color of bone cancer, and if I need to wear a yellow ribbon to show support for those who are suffering from that disease, I would do so gladly.
Light blue is the color for prostate cancer awareness. I can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about prostate cancer -- except how it feels to beat it -- and I am working on that as hard as I possibly can.
Purple is for colon cancer -- as well as many other maladies -- and periwinkle is for stomach and esophageal cancer. I am close to people who have both right now.
Gray -- as in gray matter, I suppose -- is for brain cancer.
Green is for kidney cancer.
 Violet is for Hodgkin's lymphoma and gold is for childhood cancer. Silver is the color for ovarian cancer and there are many other ribbons for many other maladies and if I have left yours out of the list, I apologize.
There is one flag, however, that I will never raise concerning cancer. I will never raise the white flag. I will never give up, and neither should you. In the words of Churchill, "We must never give up; we must never give up. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up."
Darrell Huckaby is an educator and author.

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