What with this week’s controversy surrounding Susan G. Komen For the Cure’s decision to pull funding for Planned Parenthood (a wrong-headed move, I think), the color pink has been front and center in the news.* This suggests that the darker tone in the palette—red—could be overlooked. That would be a shame, because while the horror that is breast cancer claims far too many lives, it is actually heart disease that kills more than half a million women each year, giving it the dubious distinction of being the leading cause of death among women.
(My thanks to Marlo Thomas and her terrific Huffington Post article for highlighting these surprising statistics.)
Today is National Wear Red Day, and to draw attention to the cause, I’ll be wearing the little number shown above when I leave my laptop to lunch with a few Richmond writers. I’ll also be taking a good, long look at the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” website to educate myself about the topic, and then I’ll make an appointment with my doctor to schedule a heart-health checkup.
Why has this issue commanded my attention—even more than the other distressing health topic in the news this week? Because I have a sneaking suspicion that if any disease is going to nab me, it will have something to do with my heart, and not the flesh covering it. And this from a woman who’s already had cancer.
My father died in 1969, two weeks after suffering a massive heart attack. He was only 48-years old. (I was 13. I have now lived seven years longer than he.) His illness occurred in the days before cardiac care units; he spent the last weeks of his life in an intensive care ward, surrounded by other desperately ill or injured patients—an environment hardly conducive to reducing one’s stress level.
His death was one of the most formative experiences in my life, and there’s much more to say about it in a future post. (More to say about my thyroid cancer, too.) But for now, the point I’m trying to make is that my genetic predisposition for heart disease is pretty strong. And I have what Dr. Oz calls the number one “symptom to watch for [—] shortness of breath.” I’d like to pretend these things don’t exist—going to the doctor for any reason is not my favorite pastime—but I really know better. And I really need to know more.
Please read Marlo’s article. There’s a lot of great information to be found there. She’s interviewed Dr. Oz, as well as Barbra Streisand, whom she calls “a front line soldier in the fight against women’s heart disease.” I was not aware that the number one symptom of heart disease is shortness of breath. I’m ready to take action now.
And I’m ready to make my fashion statement.
Oh, and one more thing: I’ll be sending positive energy to every woman affected by either of these awful diseases. Let’s work to help rid the world of both of ‘em. Okay?
*A CNN alert on my iPhone just as I was about to publish this post reports that the Komen Foundation has reversed its decision: “Susan G. Komen for the Cure to restore Planned Parenthood breast cancer screening funds, Sen. Frank Lautenberg says.” Let’s hope so…