Ribbons, ribbons, everywhere

Ribbon shape on wallPeggy Orenstein‘s article, “Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer,” is worth one of your precious NYTimes.com chits (unless, of course, you’re a subscriber, in which case you have hopefully already devoured it).

But don’t just take my word for it, read this post by Katherine O’Brien of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network — the bloggers I turned to first when I wondered about the “insider view” of the article. The post almost entirely praises Orenstein’s thorough reporting and illumination of key issues.

Or read some of the article’s nearly 500 comments (and counting). For example:

“I am a community pathologist who sees about 2000 breast biopsies a year and 300 or so lumpectomies. This is the best article on breast cancer for the general public I have ever read.”

Here’s another comment I loved:

“Last year I was teaching my fifth grade religion class about the Liturgical Year in the Catholic Church. We regularly discussed the seasons and the colors that represented them. White for Easter, purple for Advent, etc. One Sunday in Lent I asked them if they knew why the priest was wearing pink vestments that day, and not purple. One of the girls shot her hand up, waving it frantically. “Oh! Oh!” she said. “Breast Cancer?”

Truly brilliant marketing.”

Which brings me to the photo illustrating this post. When my 9-year-old son and I were gardening a few weeks ago, he pointed to a loop on our concrete wall, possibly made by a previous homeowner fighting moss with bleach. “Look, Mom! It’s the breast cancer ribbon.” Yes, I said, but did you know that other awareness campaigns use ribbons, too? I went into “home school” mode and, as we sat pulling weeds, told him all about the red ribbons of the 1990s which raised public awareness of AIDS and HIV. We had a good talk about why some diseases need publicity — and why some get more publicity than others.

Here’s to Peggy Orenstein getting her wish: to change the national conversation about breast cancer. And here’s to quiet conversations, too, which can be just as powerful.

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