On the odd chance you are not aware, there is a disease called cancer. It can take many forms and affect any part of your body. Some forms are curable, some are not, but if left untreated it is always lethal.
Yeah. I thought you might have heard about it. There are over one and one half million new cases every year, and a little over half a million deaths in the population of roughly three hundred sixteen million Americans. That’s about 0.5% of the population newly affected each year, someone’s parent, spouse, sibling, child, or all of the above. You know at least one and possibly several people directly affected, survivors and fatalities.
This is why I really do not understand Cancer Awareness programs. What disturbs me even more deeply are secret cancer awareness games. The oxymoron title does not seem to sink in to the people involved.
The first of these I noticed a few years ago. One day a number of my female friends posted status updates consisting of a color. A few weeks later a few posted suggestive sounding status updates such as “I like it on the kitchen table” which was part of a game in which you posted where you liked to place your handbag. You were not supposed to explain, but a few people did privately. This was all supposed to raise awareness about breast cancer. How being part of a secret raises awareness is beyond me. How people who have suffered from breast cancer, or lost a loved one to breast cancer, could be a part of this astounds me.
More recently there was a group posting “selfies”, pictures one takes of oneself, without makeup. A few people mentioned it was for “cancer awareness” and fewer still provided a link to a cancer research association. While this might have had more impact on cancer research than any previous game, it was also the most revealing exercise. It was not easy to participate in. It took the courage to reveal yourself without makeup, so it was not quite as widespread as previous campaigns. Despite the narcissism of a society that has actually coined a bastardized word for self worship (selfie), the idea of being seen at less than your cosmetically enhanced “best” lacked appeal. Asked to contribute so much as a morsel of vanity the movement crashed, despite national news coverage of celebrities without make up (although possibly still Photoshopped).
Maybe the point of cancer awareness is self awareness. Cancer avoidance begins with self awareness, diagnosis begins with self awareness. The path to that self awareness is discussion and openness, so cute little secret games could never be the answer, in fact they are the antithesis of awareness.
Today (1 April 2014) would have been my fifteenth wedding anniversary with Emma. It is a day on which I am acutely aware of cancer, as are the dates of her birth and death, which is not to say it ever slips out of my mind. During the thirteen months she (we) struggled with cancer I learned quite a bit about cancer and its effects. I learned about the human spirit, hope, and loss. I have lost other friends to cancer, and know quite a few that have survived cancer, so losing my wife does not make me special or unique in any way.
You do not have to lose a loved one to be aware of cancer, in fact I honestly believe you would need to live in a remote cave to not be aware. If you are unaware of the signs of cancer, playing games will not make you, or anyone else, aware. Talk with your friends who have survived (you must have at least one) or visit the website of the American Cancer Society. The American Cancer Society does wonderful work in all aspects of cancer awareness, and provides services to not only patients but families of patients. They fund research investigating avoidance, treatments, and cures as well as providing counseling for those who lose loved ones to the disease.
If you want to raise awareness, talk. Discuss avoidance with your loved ones. Donate money or time to charities like but not limited to the American Cancer Society. Share your story if you are a survivor, or the stories of others that did not survive. Share this article, or something written by someone else about their journey with cancer (maybe a short book, I leave them on airplanes and in hotel rooms). If it has not already, cancer will affect you in some way in the future. Be prepared.
One other thought I would like to share with you. Cancer is a random event. There are circumstances which make it more likely such as exposure to carcinogens (sunlight, smoking, certain chemicals), but there is no way to completely prevent cancer. In the same way you would not blame a rape victim for the actions of a violent criminal, never blame a cancer patient for their disease. Blame has no place in treatment other than as a footnote among things that have a negative effect.