Pink Ribbons, Pink Footballs, Pink Cleats

By Mitchell H. Lowe, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C

This blog space normally deals with architectural and engineering design issues.  It runs the gamut from design theory, renovation, restoration, city planning, historic preservation to community involvement and much more.  As licensed design professionals, we are obligated to meet a standard in our design work that protects the public’s health, safety, and welfare.  However, personal health is something 
this blog doesn’t always focus on.

For many years when I was growing up, and even when my children were young, October was the month of black and orange, as people start to think about witches, goblins and Halloween candy. Lately though, October has become the month for pink ribbons, pink footballs, pink cleats, and even pink newsprint, all to honor National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I used to pay scant attention to this phenomenon, as it just tended to clutter up my Sunday afternoon football watching, or just appear on all the goods in my local grocery store as what I thought was a crass marketing gimmick.

Wow, what a difference in perception one can get when your awareness level changes.  Today, I sit with my wife in the hospital while she recovers from breast cancer surgery.  What a shock it was to us when the doctor told us what we will need to have done.  And I say we because this is a disease that affects a whole family, not just an individual.  But I feel that we are very, very lucky.  My wife is in a high risk group due to family history.  Because of this, she has had regular screenings and exams for many years.  With the aid of mammograms, MRI’s, genetic testing, and biopsies, her condition was diagnosed in its early stages, long before it had spread or advanced.  The lab results from the surgery show that the cancer appears to have been contained, and has not spread beyond this one area.  With continued diligence, we expect her future prognosis to be bright.

Stopping cancer in its early developmental stages before it spreads is one of the biggest keys to keeping it under control.  It is much easier to deal with it at the microscopic stage than when a noticeable lump, growth or other abnormality appears.  Some cancers grow rapidly, but many take years to get from abnormal cell growth to cancerous growth.

Which leads me back to the pink ribbons.  The emphasis that National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has put on the disease should also help focus disease prevention to all types of cancers.  Awareness does not need to apply only to women or to breast cancer.  There are cancers that affect men just as much as women, and with advanced age, certain other types of cancers can appear.  I am not a doctor or a specialist in cancer research or prevention; I can only pass on what I have learned in the past several months as this plight has played out for us.  It is most important that you discuss with your doctor any risk groups you might be in, whether it be genetic, environmental, or habit.  If you are in a group that has elevated risk of cancer, please get proper screening to find out if you have any signs that you are currently at risk, and then take the proper steps to remove it or slow its growth before it controls you instead of you controlling it.