I was somewhat skeptical that first October we started selling pink lemonade on flights during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I loved the whole idea of raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research, but asking for donations made me a little uneasy. When I travel, once I finally arrive at my seat I just want to be left alone. Pink lemonade, at $2 a glass, is the last thing on my mind, especially when I can get a diet Coke for free.
Something funny happened that first October; I saw a different side of people. They not only were happy to purchase a glass of lemonade but also shared stories of loved ones fighting the disease or smiled and said they were survivors. I remember a little girl who was traveling unaccompanied. She had a butterfly coin purse on her lap and handed me $2 when I got to her seat. She told me she wanted to help find a cure.
Now I look forward to October. I enjoy visiting our "pink boutiques" to purchase pink uniform pieces and other items to raise funds for the BCRF. Instead of pants and clogs, I wear our pink dress and heels. I cheer on my colleagues who are a part of our Breast Cancer One survivor flight. But mostly, I remember my sister who battled breast cancer for nine years. During that time she taught the first grade. She was the kind of teacher who greeted children on their first day of school wearing a sash, pageant-style that said, "WELCOME BACK!!" in glittery letters.
She lived in the moment and always tried to bring a smile to a face each day – a friend, neighbor, or stranger – it didn't matter. She inspired others and brought hope. She celebrated life and she loved fully. She was 43 when cancer took her life, but it didn't win. Her life taught me how to live.
When I'm serving pink lemonade, I'm getting a whole lot more out of our campaign than promoting awareness and raising funds for breast cancer research. I feel like I'm continuing her battle and celebrating the beautiful life of my little sister, Andree Manu Pu'u Rice.