Ask Me Why I’m Blue

Eartha Kitt and daughter Kitt Shapiro

I am blue because it is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and blue, is the color for colon cancer.

Did you know that colon cancer is represented by the color blue? Most people don’t. But, if you saw a pink ribbon, what would be the first thing that came to mind? Breast cancer awareness, right? So, here’s an interesting statistic: colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer death. Now, there’s a reason to be blue.

Colorectal cancer affects both men and women, of all races and ages. In fact, the fastest growing number of people being diagnosed are under the age of 50. That’s right, it’s not an old white man’s disease. But, you still probably wouldn’t have known that the universal symbol for colon cancer is a blue star.

I know all too well. My mother, the legendary entertainer, Eartha Kitt, died from the disease Christmas Day 2008. She had never had a colonoscopy prior to her diagnosis. She always felt fine. Health conscious, active and physically fit, she, like many people, didn’t like going to the doctor if they didn’t feel sick. Yet, looking back, she had many symptoms that she would just shrug off. “I must have eaten too much citrus fruit.” Or “I’m so bloated from all that carbonated water I drank.” These were passing comments I heard her say for years, but neither of us ever thought it was anything more than a momentary discomfort. And, indeed, these seemingly minor pains would subside and never thought about or mentioned again. By the time my mother went for her first colonoscopy, we discovered she had stage III colon cancer, and after her surgery, learned that it appeared cells had already migrated towards the liver.

Colonoscopies, which many of us think about with dread, are actually the easiest way to stop early signs of cancer, polyps, before they develop into the nasty little death monsters. And, these days, colonoscopies aren’t the only form of screening, so there really are no excuses anymore.

But, let’s face it, talking about our colons is not as sexy as talking about our breasts. And, no matter how evolved we think we are, what happens in the bathroom, usually stays in the bathroom. Unless you have toddlers or teenage boys. It’s the one room that’s still ‘private’. Even the cable networks rarely show what goes on behind those doors, which I can’t say is a bad thing.

But, or butt, (pun intended), it is a dialogue we need to open with the ones we love and first and foremost, with ourselves.

Since my mother died, life has been filled with mixed emotions, celebrating my life as a mother while longing for my own. I have created a lifestyle brand, Simply Eartha™, ‘accessories that SAY something’, where I incorporate my mother’s words into my design. Some pieces even use her actual handwriting.

As an only child, my role has gone from care giver, by my mother’s side every from her diagnosis, through all the ups and painful downs of treatment, until her departure from this earth to, now, care taker of the amazing legacy of beauty, talent and wisdom, my mother left behind. I now, give voice to her words, sharing her empowering, albeit simple philosophies on life, with fans, old and new.

I sit on the board of directors of the Colon Cancer Alliance, and have made it my mission to get us talking about the importance of colorectal screening and early detection. It’s time to bring that conversation out of the toilet closet.

The greatest gift my mother gave me was knowing that she always loved me. All the more remarkable, because as a child, orphaned, love was something she never had.

Sometimes, I felt that she loved me too much, but now as a parent, I’m not sure you can ever love a child too much. My mother certainly didn’t think you could.

As I continue to sort through the piles of her handwritten pages, I often stumble upon thoughts she wrote about and to, me. Some are uncomfortable to read, but all are filled with her love. In honor of Colon Cancer Awareness Month, I share one with you.

My mother’s love is forever etched in ME.

Poem Eartha Kitt wrote to her daughter Kitt Shapiro
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