This article appears on the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants’ blog, Musings.
Men who serve in battle receive ribbons to wear on their chests to indicate their wars and actions served, their bravery and commitment to fulfilling their duty. Young girls wear ribbons in their hair as a way of addressing the practical need to keep the hair out of their face and to accent their outfit and/or their vibrant personalities.
Tying a yellow ribbon around an old oak tree has become a symbol of warmth, welcome and promise (I have always felt conflicted about that sentiment as the song is about someone getting out of prison. I will stick with the reference to wives and girlfriends of cavalry men wearing a yellow ribbon in their hair as devotion to their husbands and boyfriends). The sentiments of bravery, beauty and optimism somehow have become captured in a simple ribbon.
With the NFL season ending, we cannot but help recognize the effect of this symbol as a potential focus for the cause of raising funds for breast cancer. Nothing like a bunch of testosterone-infused men running around with pink shoes, socks and sweatbands to heighten awareness to a cause. In fact, the pink ribbon has morphed into just the color pink as being enough to direct your attention to the need to support the battle against breast cancer. This marketing ploy has been a tremendous benefit to the cause and I applaud the effort. My wife has worked as a radiologic technologist and performed mammograms for a large part of her career. She has particularly taken up the cause to fight this disease. But, in my line of work, I find myself facing a steady stream of patients with pulmonary malignancy and I recently asked myself: “What color is the ribbon for lung cancer?”