Pink Isn’t My Color

How We Decide What Becomes Part of Our Identities


I had called the week before–both my primary care’s office and the radiology place that had done the biopsy. I’d been waiting two weeks for the results…but everyone was out of town, on vacation. So I called my PC’s office again, two weeks to the day after I’d had the biopsy done. The friendly receptionist told me about the problems they’d been having getting test results from the place that had done it, thanks to technical difficulties, but she reached out specifically to them.

And then said something I knew was bad news: “Can you come in at 12:45 today?”

We all know that they give good news over the phone. We all know that if they ask to see you, it’s not good news. So I rearranged my day, and my husband and I went in.

Even so, as my PC broke the news that I have breast cancer and went through what they knew thus far, I had the silliest thought:

But pink isn’t my color!

I know, I know. It’s a weird reaction. But it stayed there in the back of my mind all through the next weeks and the next steps. And it stayed because, I think, it represents something far deeper for me.

I don’t want to be identified as someone with breast cancer.

I finally put it into words a week or so later, as my husband and I sat in the car waiting for our son to come out of youth group. Words he needed, because they hit on something he’d been struggling with too.

First, allow me to offer this: I take no issue with people choosing to incorporate these battles into their identity. Whether it’s being a cancer survivor or a Type 1 Diabetic warrior, or parent or spouse or sibling, whether it’s being a Wounded Warrior or a stroke survivor or anything else–we all choose what we incorporate into our identities, and we have a right to do that. No judgment from me whatsoever. Allow me to also say that I’ve gotten some pink gifts in the last few weeks, and I am so, SO touched and grateful, and I love each one. As I walk through this cancer journey, I love seeing the ribbons that remind me that I’m not alone, and that we’re all fighting together. I love the pink pashmina shawl, and the beautiful bracelet. But much like most of my other articles of clothing and accessories, they may be something I wear, but they’re not who I am.

Because in our family, we tend to come down on it this way:

The only things that get to become part of our identity are the things we choose. Things that happen to us don’t get to define us.

Now, that said…how you react to the situations and circumstances you find yourself in IS a choice. And that’s why so many choose to embrace those things and identify with them. Which is why I’m A-okay with it.

But I look at our circumstances as the things that shape us into who we need to be to fulfill the call God has put on our lives. Those are the words my husband said to me as we were racing to the hospital while our son was being flown by helicopter to Pittsburgh Children’s PICU, in DKA from the onset of diabetes.

And it’s something we’ve lived out since. I’m in lots of groups for families of Type 1 Diabetics, and I know how much it governs the lives of many, many families. I see the water bottles and T-shirts and stickers they wear. Because they are warriors–the kids and their parents–and they’re proud of it.

But my son doesn’t want any of those things. My son is totally chill and laid back and deals with his disease responsibly. He doesn’t get upset by it. But he also doesn’t want it. If they announce a pill next week that will manage it all for him, he will be first in line. He would give it up if he could. Diabetes is something that happened to him–but he does not define himself as a diabetic. He doesn’t deny being one, and he’s not the type to ever be like, “No, call me ‘a person who has diabetes, not a diabetic'” because he knows that amounts to the same thing. But if Rowyn were to write his bio, it would probably say something like, “Avid gamer, good at math but hates it, loves the colors blue and black, can spend all day building things, whether physically or on the computer.” Nowhere in there would he feel the need to mention that he wears a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) or an OmniPod insulin pump. He accepts it as his reality–but not as his identity.

And that’s exactly how I feel about this breast cancer. I accept that it is my current reality. I accept that I have to deal with it, and I will. I’ll handle it responsibly, and I’ll be open and vulnerable about it, just like I am about Rowyn’s Type 1.

But you know what? Pink isn’t my color. I’m not going to wear the T-shirt. I’m not going to get the stickers. I’m not going to drink from the water bottle. Not because I mind other people doing those things–and I will cheer you on if I see you with that pink ribbon! But because this is not who I am. This is just what I’m going through right now. I plan to be a breast cancer survivor, a thriver. I feel such camaraderie for the others who have gone or are going (or will go) through it. Yes, we are a band of sisters who never would have chosen this path but who will walk it in faith. I embrace the sisters. I’ll share the story.

But it’s just a chapter–it’s not my whole book. It’s just a challenge–it’s not what defines the competitor. It’s my reality, not my identity.

How do we decide what becomes part of our identities?

We choose. We choose what we leave as our legacy. We choose what we focus on. If you’ve chosen to embrace being a warrior and the battle you’ve been through, that’s awesome.

But I am not a warrior. I am someone who sometimes go to battle. It’s what I do–it’s not who I am.

I am the Beloved of God. I am the daughter of Ron and Karen. I am the sister of Jennifer. I am the wife of David. I am the mother of Xoe and Rowyn. I am a writer. I am a friend. Those things are what I will let define me, be part of my identity. The people I love, the calling God put on my heart, the words He put in my mouth (or in my fingers, LOL), the belonging to Him.

You can strip away my human relationships, you can take my physical abilities, you can even strip away my words, and my core being will still be intact, because it’s rooted in Him. But I am happiest with my people, with my books.

Not with my cancer. Strip that away, and I’ll still be me. But when it is taken away–and I believe it will be–I’ll be a stronger version of me. That’s what the battles are for. To shape us and strengthen us, and even to break down the parts of us that God knows we’re better off without. The Roseanna that emerges will be a better Roseanna than the one who stepped onto this path that Tuesday in her primary care’s office.

And she won’t be wearing pink.

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