The Austin Chronicle

Pretty in Pink

By Abby Johnston, October 25, 2012, 11:34am, Earache!

Every October, everything turns pink. There are “Save the Boobies” wristbands, benefit walks, and rosy ribbons representing hope for breast cancer survivors. This community's outpouring of love and support for an issue that's touched countless lives remains absolutely essential. One in eight women will have the disease in their lifetime.

For me, every month is breast cancer awareness month.

After a seven-year struggle, my mom fell victim to breast cancer. I was 9. As I grow older, my memories of her become less specific. What were once tangible remembrances become fuzzy, and the lines between photo recounts and actual experiences grow dimmer.

One link with my mom that can’t be broken: Music.

My mother could belt any song Don Henley ever touched just as easily as the entirety of the Baptist Hymnal. She dragged me to piano lessons and lived vicariously through those tutorials she never had. She sang in the church choir on Sundays, but when she got home she threw off her heels and blasted ZZ Top.

She graciously indulged my tastes of the moment, buying me all the new Spice Girls tapes, but forced piano on me in the CDs of barefoot piano virtuoso George Winston, assuring me, “You could do this, too. If you practice.”

She loved the blues, perhaps because she understood them. She often imitated Susan Tedeschi’s wail with her own raspy alto. She laughed when I asked why Muddy Waters sounded so sad. Music obviously struck something deep within her. If she had played an instrument, I like to imagine her playing the blues, capturing pain very few people can emote while maintaining a roughness.

And she was tough, all right. She looked fear in the face daily and scoffed. My mother knew the blues.

While only one month of the year fosters public awareness for breast cancer, mine comes through music. I hope my mom knows I kept up with my piano, and that I still remember all her made-up reminder songs. I think she'd giggle that I know the entire Eagles discography without close study, and that I found her Shiva’s Headband album with an Elton John disc inside it instead.

Please, schedule mammograms and regular checks to maintain health. Let the pink serve as a reminder, but don’t forget it the other 11 months of the year.

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