This is an incredibly well written commentary on the language of cancer. Yvonne brings us round to face our society’s efforts through the “language of detachment” to make those with cancer feel like “the other” A must read….

considering the lilies

“I read the news today, oh boy . . .” and prompted by Marie’s questions: who are cancer survivors and is it really necessary to celebrate survivorship on the first Sunday of June, I began yet another interminable trek through the unfiltered Internet. I found no answers for Marie. Just more questions. Admittedly, before today, I was completely unaware that such a “treasured worldwide celebration of life” was on the calendar and has been for twenty-five years. I wonder would I have been any the wiser had I not been diagnosed myself. So who is a survivor, and who do I think I am? At best, I am ambivalent. According to the National Cancer Survivors Day website:

a “survivor” as anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life. National Cancer Survivors Day affords your community an opportunity to demonstrate…

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Action: Beyond Awareness

In the 80’s and 90’s I watched public broadcasting shows and tired of the environmental documentaries.

Why?

Because the documentaries left me depressed.  All the terrible changes were and still are occurring.  Man wasn’t sharing the world but dominating it.  I was made aware but left hopeless with every documentary because there were no actions I could take to help.  The documentaries brought me to awareness, but then stopped there.

I feel the same way about the slew of Awareness campaigns.  They are all the rage.

Why do we just “do” Awareness?

Because it’s the easiest type of campaign to create and to document that some type of “change” has occurred.

So there are months or weeks or days devoted to “Breast Cancer Awareness” “Pancreatic Cancer Awareness””Autism Awareness” “Mental Health Awareness” ad infinitum.

A truly positive aspect of these campaigns is the impact on acceptability.  People can bring up the word cancer in conversation,  mental health and illness is being discussed.

So what is wrong with all this “awareness”?

There are campaigns that are outdated.  An example is that  early detection via mammography leads to a cure for breast cancer.  First, those who have been diagnosed, no matter the stage, can have a recurrence.  Metastatic breast cancer is the reality for one third of those diagnosed with breast cancer.  Another fact that is not being shared by those in the Awareness business is that mammograms may not be enough to find women with dense breasts need to be notified that mammograms are not the best tools to find the lumps.  So women getting mammograms are getting false hope with the yearly all-clear.

Another example among families living with autism is lack of support for the family…the financial burden…the constant observation that must be maintained in the school system to assure care.  After graduation from high school, how does the adult child function in society?

Awareness campaigns seem to just touch the surface of a problem but do not address the nitty-gritty of those who are experiencing life fully.

And there is still the stigma that people with mental illness, metastatic disease, disabilities face?

How do those who are experiencing pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, autism, feel about all this “Awareness”?

I’m sure there comes a time when they say, “Enough already.”