Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was indifferent to the color pink. It was fine, but I didn't wear it often because it made me feel like I was wearing a gender-specific cliché, like Reese Witherspoon's all-pink attire in Legally Blonde.

After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I hated pink. The kind gifts I received when going through surgery and chemo—fleece blankets, sweatshirts, soft caps to cover my bald head, mugs, and flowers—were all nauseatingly pink.

Looking back, I think I resented the color because it assigned me to a disease I hated. The color marked me–and whatever genes had gone haywire in my body—as defective. The color of the gifts felt presumptuous, as if people assumed that because I had breast cancer, pink was automatically my new favorite color. But it wasn't.

When I was hospitalized for a massive lung infection shortly after I finished seven grueling months of treatment, an art therapist came to my room and asked me if I'd like to paint my emotions. She offered me a pastel palette of watercolors and a blank canvas. She suggested I might like to draw something serene and calming, like a beach at sunrise or a kitten playing with a ball of yarn. I told her I didn't want a dainty plastic pastel palette; I wanted gallons of black paint and an empty room. I wanted to hurl the slimy blackness at the unsuspecting white walls. I wanted the four corners to feel my pain.

Not long before, when I was in my mid-20s, I thought I was safe, and my future was bright and promising. Then my right nipple started bleeding, and my biopsy came back with cancer cells. The cancer kept growing in spite of all the treatments, and while I was fighting for ...

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