How a $2 bracelet made me feel I was doing something important

I was in a local specialty grocery store recently to restock my depleted supply of flavored balsamic vinegars, when I came across a little basket of purple bracelets on the checkout counter.

The very nice clerk informed me the bracelets had just come in, and the $2 for each one goes directly to helping victims of pancreatic cancer.

I am very careful about supporting such things. It’s not that I want people to die from horrible diseases like pancreatic cancer and other afflictions. And it’s not that I don’t want to help someone else.

Afterall, my late husband Jim died from that very dreadful disease.


But until recently, getting involved in cancer-fighting efforts has felt like the old expression of shutting the barn door after the cows already have gotten out. I found it difficult to feel a need to fight against something that already had stolen the person most precious to me, and had nearly left me for dead in its wake.

I had trouble feeling empathy or sympathy, or obligation because of my loss, or any other emotion when it came to fighting diseases. I have felt similarly about other cancer fights too, having lost my biological mother to breast cancer, my biological father to non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in his brain, and my stepfather to what eventually became bone cancer.

Whenever I would see pink or purple ribbons that are the symbols of breast and pancreatic cancers, respectively, I would feel so angry, and alone. What does sporting a colored ribbon do to fight such a huge enemy?

And I get absolutely livid when I see retail outlets capitalize on those campaigns, and you just know not one red cent goes toward research or helping an individual who lives with the disease daily. They hide behind the “spreading awareness” shield.

Awareness is amazing and, done properly, saves lives through early detection and prevention, but we need so many more weapons. Stronger weapons with bigger clout that can drive the disease monster out once it has taken residence in someone’s body. We need research into what causes these cancers and to help us find their weaknesses.

Any warrior knows the quickest way to defeat an enemy is to find its greatest weakness. We are all warriors in this battle against cancer, as we watch it pick off those we love one by one. We all have a stake, and it is very high.

And a colored ribbon alone or on some piece of merchandise just doesn’t do it for me. It reminds me I have lost someone dear to me to the awful disease, and nothing more. I have much more interest in efforts that raise money that directly benefits the research we so desperately need to find causes and solutions.

Our community is blessed with many of these organized efforts, and the dedication by participants is awe-inspiring. I can get behind such efforts because it feels like we’re actually doing something helpful. We’re no longer victims if we can fight back with meaning.

So I stood before the little basket of bracelets, weighing all of these feelings in just a few seconds, and reached for one of the purple rubbery circles. Two dollars isn’t much, but added to someone else’s and someone else’s — well, you get the picture — it could make a real difference.

I paid my $2 and chose a bracelet. Freeing it from the plastic bag protecting it, I read: “No one fights alone”.

No one fights alone indeed.


Julie Harris

About Julie Harris

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.