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Palm Trees, Pumpkins, and Pink Ribbons

Ahhhh, bella Italia! There is no other country quite like it. Often referred to as God's Pantry it is a feast for the mind, body and soul; all five senses heightened and on alert. The sweet smell of the olive trees mingling with the salt air along the rocky coastline eased me gently out of my jet lag. The opulent lush greenery of the palm trees (yes - really) throughout the country but most surprisingly in the city of Rome was an unexpected treat for the eyes. The velvety texture of seasonal pumpkin ravioli prepared simply with butter and fresh herbs lingered on my palette long after the last bite. As I listened to the melodic highs and lows of the Italian language echoing through the canals of Venice and down the medieval stone corridors of Assisi made me not just want to speak the language but speak it with the inflection of a native. It's a beautiful and ancient land filled with both dusty ruins that left a gritty coating on my skin and glamorous boutiques that left a hole in my wallet. I could have stayed forever...but alas my return ticket was already purchased so I had to get on that plane, but not before I tossed a coin over my left shoulder into the Trevi Fountain ensuring my return.

What I enjoyed most was observing the Italian lifestyle, these people know how to live; they understand what's important. The French may be known for their joie de vivre, the joy of life, but the Italians have la dolce vita, the sweet life. The Italians work for a few hours in the morning, then take a long break mid-day for lunch, family time and even a brief rest, then they return to wrap up their day and enjoy a late meal under the stars. As explained to me on my trip, by our wonderful Roman guide Giampiero, things rarely go as planned in Italy so typically the Italians have a plan A and a plan B...and on occasion a plan C. I will say, for notoriously passionate people you rarely see them get worked up over the little day to day aggravations. A life lesson I packed up with my memories and will continue to cherish.

When I found out I would be in Italy mid-October I was curious. What is fall like in another country? Here in America we are innundated with chemically-enhanced pumpkin flavored coffee, chunky sweaters, and ghoulish jack-o-lanterns. We are also surrounded by the exhaustive vision of pink ribbons slapped on everything promising a cure with purchase.

While sipping the smooth, strong Italian caffe it was coffee that tasted like, well, coffee. And I did in fact see many beautiful pumpkins both on tabletop displays and on plates frequently paired with truffles, pasta and Grana cheese it was real pumpkin - not manufactured pumpkin flavoring. Rustic baskets displayed seasonal offerings to be found inside a particular restaurant or gourmet shop but none displayed a pink ribbon; not on a scarf, a bottle of perfume, or a candy bar. For twelve days fall became fall again. The fall of my childhood; warm days that end with a crisp snap in the evening air, an enticing bounty of smokey meats and freshly harvested vegetables waiting to be roasted and stewed in anticipation of the coming winter freeze. I spent my days soaking in the gorgeous colors of late afternoon sunlight reflecting on the buildings surrounding the piazzas and glinting off the centuries old duomos. I perused shops filled with hand-dyed cashmere wraps and butter soft leather bags in a stunning array of colors. If I saw pink it was simply that - pink because of the beauty of the color not for the profit under the guise of a cure. It was wonderful. I didn't have to play the part of the brave survivor - I could just embrace the beauty of the season, enjoy each day's adventure, indulging in once-in-a-lifetime meals and a marsala wine-soaked zabaglione gelato that has ruined me for ever eating ice cream again. I was able to eat, drink, and dance (yes - after a lot vin santo) and forget about the past seven years of survivorship - until I got home again and opened up my email.

'Think Pink' was the subject line from a recruiting company I've done business with in the past. I opened the email and glanced through message. There was nothing there about breast cancer. No healthcare companies looking for insight from survivors or caregivers. No medical research companies looking for volunteers to participate in studies. No opportunities for writers or bloggers to inspire others through their experiences. Just a listing of open administrative positions in the fashion industry. Huh? So I went back and read the email three times in case my jet lag was impairing my cognitive abilities. Think pink? Just another headline in the month of pinkwashing. Mamma Mia!

We need to take a step back. The origins of the pink ribbon started from a good place and allowed strides to be made in both research and drug therapies but don't be fooled, there is still no cure. Are we leaps and bounds ahead of other cancers such as endometrial, pancreatic, and ovarian because of that pink ribbon? Yes. Do we have a long way to go for our sistahs living with mets, triple negative drug resistant cancers, and male breast cancers? You bet we do. Do we have to remain vigilant in calling out the pinkwashers? Absolutely.

I will continue to support the companies that are donating their pink dollars wisely and raise awareness to the companies that are using the pink ribbon as an emotional money grab. I will embrace my Italian heritage and remind myself to live a little more simply, eat locally, seasonally, organically, and relax frequently. I will live in the moment and enjoy the sweet life, la dolce vita.

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