Cancer Awareness Months Like Movember Have Limited Benefit
By Cara Sutra
So, it’s 1st November, which means Movember 2016 has begun. There are several cancer awareness months in the year, and whenever something pops-up on my feed i try to do my bit raising awareness and/or donating. Cancer has not only affected my own close family, but also the lives of many friends. It’s an evil beast – completely dispassionate and non-discriminatory about who it strikes, when, and how. Cancer awareness months seem, on the face of it, a great idea. I feel they have a limited benefit though. Unless you also donate.
Personally, I’m already well aware of cancer. Acutely, painfully, seeping-into-my-everyday-consciousness aware. Is there anyone out there who needs to be made even more aware of cancer and its devastating effects?
I see a lot of cancer-related viral Facebook statuses pop-up on my feed. Please, can we stop with sharing these memes? Although I understand they are shared with good intentions, they usually do absolutely nothing to thwart cancer or help the ongoing fight. I’m sure you’ve seen the type of messages I’m talking about.
“97% of people won’t share this, let’s see if my good-hearted friends do. Share this status and pink ribbon on your Facebook wall for one hour to remember all those we’ve lost to cancer.”
No Bra Day is another viral which really doesn’t work. Maybe the intention was good, but reality is simply an excuse for people to take & share a load of boob selfies. Newsflash: shaking your ta-tas, taking a wet t-shirt competition style selfie and posing in front of the mirror in your new sexy lingerie does nothing to help beat cancer. So many things in the world are sexualised beyond sanity in any case; let’s not sexualise cancer as well. The reality of cancer – any type of cancer – isn’t sexy at all, and trivialising sufferers’ and survivors’ struggles in this way is too much of an insult to bear.
I’ve lost loved ones to cancer. My family have, too. Your Facebook status and pretty meme do nothing to help. Even seeing your boobs doesn’t help, but thanks anyway. None of this helped when we were struggling with BiL’s life slowly and painfully slipping away in front of us, and it does nothing to help anyone else struggling and suffering every day right now.
Viral Facebook statuses and memes particularly annoy me. Their intention isn’t to help, it’s to make the reader feel guilty and then use that guilt to emotionally blackmail them into sharing an update and/or an image on their own profile. I’ve done it myself in the past, as well as joining in viral campaigns for the prettiness, and hate myself for it. Often it’s done to further the reach of a Facebook business page, which I find particularly disgusting. These updates/memes don’t add to vital research or provide practical help for those suffering with cancer and its consequences.
As I’ve already mentioned, it’s the 1st November today which means the start of Movember – the annual month of men’s health issues awareness including prostate cancer. My father in law’s ultimately terminal diagnosis began as prostate cancer. I’m already very aware of prostate cancer. Beyond this awareness, what can be done to actually help?
Not everyone has the budget and means to donate to cancer research all the time. It can feel like you’re just pouring tons of money into projects and charitable causes and nothing ever seems to get better.
Except it is.
It seems slow but it really is getting better.
The recent Stand Up To Cancer fundraising campaign on TV wasn’t just yet another night of entertainment interspersed with tear-jerking montages to move you to donate. It also made the very important point that 1 in 2 people will be affected by cancer in their lifetime. We also know from Cancer Research statistics that the survival rate for cancer is now 50%, a figure which has doubled in the last 40 years.
Although you’d hope early detection, effective treatments and better survival rates would be a natural progression over time, the necessary research and trials aren’t possible without adequate ongoing funding. No matter how small a donation you can make, it all does help.
Giving a couple of pounds, even, if that’s all you can afford, has to be more useful to the ongoing battle than simply feeling a bit guilty when you see a Facebook status or meme and sharing it on your own wall to ease that guilt. You may be sharing it as part of various cancer awareness months but the real, practical value of sharing these memes is zero. True, they could inspire someone to donate to the ongoing lifesaving and life bettering research and work by cancer fighting projects; but did you donate as well? Or did you just share the update/meme?
In any case, why wait for a cancer awareness month or Facebook meme at all? Cancer doesn’t only exist when there’s a labelled month to highlight it, and people aren’t only suffering and/or dying when you see a sad montage on a TV show.
As it’s Movember 2016 more thoughts than usual are turning to men’s health issues including prostate cancer. Movember isn’t about who can grow the best ‘mo or longest beard or decorate the office with the most facial hair related novelties. If you’re doing any of these things as part of fundraising efforts, then that’s fantastic. But you don’t have to do anything outrageous, hilarious or that everyone on your Facebook will know about. You could just send your donation to help fight cancer (and this month in particular, other men’s health issues too). After all, that’s what really matters here.
If you simply can’t donate anything (and even if you can) why not see what you can do to help in your local community. It could be something as simple as donating unwanted items to your local Cancer Research, Sue Ryder or Hospice shop, or asking your hospital how to donate magazines, puzzle books and more for in-patients.
The day when cancer awareness months and cancer fighting fundraisers are finally a thing of the past, along with that bastard cancer, can’t come quick enough.
PS. To donate to the cause you can visit any of these websites: Movember, Cancer Research, Macmillan, Sue Ryder, Prostate Cancer UK, Breast Cancer Care. There are thousands more; these are the ones I donate to personally.
PPS. If you’d like to offer even more hands-on support in the fight against cancer, Macmillan Cancer Support has a lot of information for people who would like to become a volunteer or even train to become a Macmillan nurse.