I walked with Purple Pride last Saturday morning at Lake Eola, honoring my late mother and her five-year struggle with Alzheimer's Disease. I was joined by 1,668 more supporters, all walking to honor a loved one or dear friend.
A few nights later, I choked back tears at the Orlando World Marriott listening to the inspirational story of Anthony Starego, a high school kid from New Jersey who is autistic. Anthony hit a game-winning field goal with 21 seconds left to win a game for his school in 2012. His acceptance speech after accepting the Courageous Student-Athlete Award from the National Consortium for Academics and Sports was short and poignant: "I love you mom!"
Later that evening, Lonnie Ali — Muhammad Ali's wife — accepted her induction into the NCAS Hall of Fame for her leadership role in research and education for Parkinson's Disease. That's the monster that is destroying her husband, piece by piece, day by day.
We've all been touched by some disease or disorder. But in October, it's hard to get lost in the parade of pink.
October is all about honoring breast cancer awareness. The NFL is big on pink. Roger Goodell's peeps will sell you all sorts of pink merchandise — boots ($109.95), performance jackets ($89.95) knit beanies ($23.95). Be sure to read the fine print, too: Business Insider reports only about 8 percent of those sales goes toward cancer research.
But it's not just the NFL: We have pink martini specials at bars, specials at restaurants, and even massages.
The marketing monopoly breast cancer has over other diseases is overwhelming. But no disease should be left behind, even in October.
No doubt the Susan G. Komen Foundation does fine work involving cancer research. But what about the fine work of the Alzheimer's Association, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the American Heart Association, and others?
I have a great deal of sympathy for breast cancer survivors. Some have overcome. Others, not so much. A friend is now in hospice care after a battle that began with a breast cancer diagnosis. Wendy Chioji, a former news anchor at WESH and another dear friend, is dealing with a recurrence of cancer and is undergoing radiation therapy again.
But here's the reality: Every disease sucks.
Yet somehow, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has managed to grab an inordinate amount of national attention. Give it credit for becoming a marketing beast. And let's be honest about non-profits committed to a cause: Their business model can be predicated on asking for handouts with very little thought given to establishing a viable business model.
But that also doesn't mean they are less worthy.
It's worth noting that heart disease and lung cancer each kill more women in the United States than breast cancer. There are more than 5 million people living with Alzheimer's, and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
Where are the parades of color in honor of the work they do?
The NFL's hypocrisy in all of this is staggering. It fined Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall $10,500 for wearing green shoes — honoring Mental Health Awareness Week — during a recent Thursday Night football game. Marshall wouldn't have paid a cent if he was suited up Pretty in Pink, however.
Marshall, a former UCF football star, was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2011, and obviously used the game as a platform to raise awareness. The NFL simply used it to show how petty it can be when players are not in lock-step with "unauthorized" causes.
But the NFL's hypocrisy runs even deeper than that. It has systematically denied that playing tackle football can have a correlation with dementia, Alzheimer's Disease and other types of brain-related injuries (watch the PBS documentary "League of Denial"). Obviously the NFL does not want to draw attention to the logistical premise that getting your brain bounced around every Sunday could lead to some long-term issues. It is, after all, a league of denial.
The good news is that the calendar is about to flip, and the pinkish hue of October will be in our rear-view mirror.
Unless you spot somebody in those pricey, pink NFL boots.