Author, Be Radiant, Breast Cancer Awareness, Inspirational Speaker

Perspectives On A Pink October

Breast Cancer Awareness Pumpkin for October

October is always my “crazy, busy” month.  Or, at least, it has been ever since I had breast cancer.   The brand marketer in me knows that since October is the month designated for breast cancer awareness there will be a flurry of activity as everyone jumps on the band-wagon.  And, sure enough, when October hits my book sales climb, speaking engagements occur, and social media is more active.

This year is starting out no differently, as I look at my schedule of speaking events and book signings in October.  Each year, as pink October starts, I think of the many women who are uncomfortable with Breast Cancer Awareness month.  There are many good reasons for that, as for many women, celebrating pink seems to trivialize breast cancer. I understand that.  May I say, my breast cancer was far from trivial!

The marketer in me understands that if Pink October stimulates awareness of breast cancer, a few things might happen; funding might get to the breast cancer researchers, loved ones may talk to each other about breast cancer, and patients might actually think of and get their mammograms.

So, what should we do?   Pink October is not a cure.  It is not simply funky tutus and an opportunity to party.   It is an opportunity to bring breast cancer insights into the light.  During an event last year, a fellow speaker shared that over 38% of women do NOT get a mammogram.  Wow!  During another speech, I learned of research studies identifying how to prevent metastases of HER2 breast cancer.  Those speeches occurred precisely because it was Breast Cancer Awareness month.

It occurred to me, that in fact, that is what Pink October is all about.  It is not about being trivial, it is about being accessible.  It is a symbolic representation of something that women must pay attention to: breast cancer,  For those who have not had it, breast cancer is a big scary concept. Pink is not.  Perhaps because of the wearing of pink this year, next year the number of those women not getting a mammogram will drop. Perhaps because of a pink event, a little more funding will make it’s way into the researcher’s budget.  Perhaps when a newly diagnosed person sees pink, they will have a little bit of hope in simply knowing how many others are on this breast cancer journey.

I don’t know that there is any way to measure the impact of Pink October.  I can only hope that a little pink is a unifying rallying cry against cancer.  That in the end, the gentleness of pink brings people to the conversation and then loudly shouts to the world that breast cancer is anything but trivial.

Author, Be Radiant

A Radiant 4th!

A Radiant 4th

I dare suggest that the Fourth of July is truly a radiant holiday.  It has always been one of my favorites, that patriotic sense of community, the celebration of America, that knowledge that we all love this one country of ours.

This deep sense of patriotism and community was inspired in me as a very young girl.  My father had grown up in Blue Island, Illinois, right outside of Chicago.  Every summer, around the fourth, we would take a road trip from Middletown, OH to Chicago to see our grandparents, cousins, and all sorts of extended family.  While for this little five year old the six-hour drive seemed never-ending, the results were always worth it.  Days upon days of playing in new spaces, with cousins I didn’t get to see nearly often enough, and grandparents who doted on us; those trips were sacred.

Blue Island to me, was the quintessential American town.  We would celebrate Independence Day there, starting the morning with the parade.  Standing along the parade route I would watch my parents talking to so many people as they made this annual pilgrimage home .  If Mom and Dad were talking, my grandmother was always there, hoisting us up so we could see, or holding our hand so we wouldn’t get lost.

I loved the parade, though the fire engines were so noisy I would always cover my ears.  We all cheered the bands and laughed at the clowns.  The parade had to be the best in the country, at least to me.  We all waved flags during the parade and if I couldn’t find mine, there were several people jumping to give me theirs.  That day, in the town of Blue Island, I felt what it meant to be American, to be part of this great country of ours.

After the parade had ended, we would find our way back to my grandmother’s and cousins’ homes for a cook-out.   The men manned the grills so that hot dogs and hamburgers were in constant supply.  We spent our afternoons eating and playing until it was time to get ready for the fireworks.  There was only one place to go for fireworks in Blue Island, Eisenhower High School.  We would get there early and Mom would put a blanket on a patch of the football field.  We would lay down on our backs and wait for the explosions of colors to light the sky above us.  I was always a little bit afraid, what if the embers came all the way down on me?

I wonder if I knew the word radiant at the time?  I don’t really know.  But, as I remember those nights, the sky was radiant.  The deep, dark night, spotted with bright, little stars would explode in color.  We would all gasp and ooh and aah at the same time, without even trying.

And now, I ask myself, isn’t the fourth of July the definition of radiance?  We are one nation, under God, with the beautiful light of fireworks connecting us all as we jointly sing God Bless America.  On the Fourth of July however, it is not just the fireworks that are radiant, but it is us.  We, the people, are radiant as we celebrate this country of ours.  We are the light, given by God, that shines most brightly at the celebration of our country’s birth.  As freedom rings, let all of us shine….

 

Be Radiant, faith

Finding Radiance in the Rain

Rain on Leaves

This author and speaker did a bit of a mid-west tour this past week, driving from St. Louis to Indiana to Iowa, back to Indiana before heading home.  I tried to tell myself I was doing one big loop through the upper mid-west, though truth be told, it was more of zigs and zags, through the rain most of the way.

It was a rainy trip and I was slogging through downpours and thunderstorms as I drove.  During one part of the journey, when the rain didn’t seem like it would ever let up, I challenged myself to find the radiance, in the rain.

Surely it was there, I just needed to be present and look for it. I pulled off the highway to get some gas and a little bit to drink.  As I checked out with my beverage in hand, the clerk, never-looking up, murmured “Thank you and have a blessed day.”  I automatically said thank you and turned to leave.  No, I thought to myself, really thank her for saying that.  I turned back to her.  “Thank you for saying that.  That was really lovely.”

Words can not describe her reaction.  She lifted her head up and burst into the biggest smile I have seen in awhile.  Standing  a bit taller, she looked me in the eye and said with a shoulder shrug and that beautiful smile, “I always say that, it is sort of my thing.”

“I am so glad” I replied, “It is a wonderful thing to say.  Thank you so very much.  You have a blessed day as well.”

I stepped outside, into the rain and realized I had seen the radiance I was looking for that day.  Right there, at a little Speedway gas station in Indiana, by a shy, beautiful cashier who wanted to remind me, and all of us, that we are blessed.

 

Be Radiant, faith

A Profound Moment in Korea

Donna in Korea
Donna A. Heckler eating lunch in Seoul in 1996.  Trying to Be Radiant and smiling at all the food being placed in front of her.

What outstanding news this morning, to learn that the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had crossed into South Korea for a Korean summit.  It reminded me of my own profound moment in South Korea many years ago.

The year would have been 1996 and I was leading the marketing for Energizer through-out Asia-Pacific.  While I was based in Hong Kong, I traveled all over Asia for work, several times making the trip to Seoul, South Korea.

During one of my visits to Seoul, my translator and the people I worked with took me to a market for a little shopping.  While we were walking through the market, my translator was pulled aside and a conversation started.  I wondered if I was the topic, as they kept pointing to me.  After a few minutes, my translator came back to me and said that this gentleman would like to speak with me, if I was willing.

“Of course” was my answer, “what does the man want to talk about?”

“I will let him tell you himself” my translator responded.

The man was older, weathered, I might say.  He was hunched over a little and his dusty white t-shirt spoke of all the work he did.  He reached for my hand to shake it and I smiled.  He started to speak to me, stopping periodically, so my translator could share.

“I have never met an American before” he began. ” I wanted to meet you, because you are American, right?”

“Yes.  Yes, I am American.  It is so nice to meet you.”

“I wanted to meet you because I wanted to thank you.  I want to thank you for sending all the American troops over here to South Korea to keep us safe.  I want to thank you for all that America has done for us.  I wanted to thank an American in person.  Thank you, thank you.  Will you tell everyone in America how much we, in South Korea, appreciate that?  Will you tell your President?”

I was so touched.  “Oh, what kind words, thank you.  Yes, I will share your message in America.  I don’t know the President.  I don’t know that I can get your message to him, but I will certainly share it.”

As I left the man I had this overwhelming sense of awe.  I had no idea the profound impact America was having in South Korea.  I didn’t know the number of troops.  I didn’t understand what it meant to the people there.

But, it mattered so much to this man that he had to stop a stranger, an American and offer his thanks to her, through her translator.

When I returned to America, I told that story quite a few times.  It was part of a larger narrative for me; that being to understand the impact that America has on the world stage.  I had not known.  I had not understood that.

So, as today’s profound moment in Korea occurred, I kept thinking of my own profound moment.  I thought of that kind man and his words of gratitude.  I thought that sharing his message of gratitude might be a perfect thing to write about and share today.