February Fourth is World Cancer day, so let’s talk about cancer.
Everybody is either related to, or at least knows someone, who has been affected by cancer. Myself, it has surrounded my life, and even took my uncle’s life far too early. It is a huge elephant in the world.
I have to admit, I have a beef with “awareness” campaigns. They beg you to wear a shirt or ribbon or plaster your social media page with a certain color or logo. That’s fine and dandy, but that doesn’t bring my uncle back, cure my little cousin, or help cure the countless number of cases around the world.
I believe that bringing awareness helps, but they don’t always bring awareness. They say “Hey, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past fifteen years, you should know that [insert specific type of cancer here] cancer is a thing!” They need to change gears, and start bringing forward awareness on how to handle cancer as a society.
First of all, I’m gonna jump on worldcancerday.org‘s train and say we need to discuss the myths of cancer. I really like this graphic they have on their homepage.
Sure, we need to talk about cancer. We need to talk about the signs and symptoms. We need to talk about how you can help in your community. We need to talk about patient care.
I’ll let the website speak for itself. But I’m going to advocate my favorite topic: There is nothing I can do about cancer.
The first thing is; Talk about it! It isn’t like Voldemort. We need to talk about the disease in order to get understanding throughout the world. If your Grandparent, Parent, Sibling, Cousin, Friend, Family member has cancer, don’t be afraid to ask questions and talk about what you can do to better understand your own risks. Talk about seeing a doctor regularly for check-ups. If you suspect anything, see a doctor. Recently in my town, there was a woman who didn’t have health insurance, was sick, and took a long time to see a doctor. By the time she did, it was too late, and her first round of chemo did her in. We need to get people to better understand the disease and how it could show up, so they can get the help they need early on.
Second thing is; donate. I’m terrified of needles. But I will advocate until the day I die that blood and marrow donation is the best thing you can do. Donating an organ terrifies me, because I’m afraid of surgery. Hopefully one day I can jump that hurdle like I did the needle one.
This is my baby cousin Emma. She is my Cousin Nicole’s daughter and she was recently diagnosed with Leukemia, shortly after my Uncle Chris passed away. I got over my fear of needles and signed up to be a bone marrow donor, because one day that little girl might need blood cells or marrow, and if I can help save her life, I want to. I would do anything to be able to bring back my Uncle Chris, and while a transplant was not an option for his type of cancer, I would still have given anything to keep him here, alive. So I registered at bethematch.org to become a bone marrow donor. And even if it’s not Emma who needs my help, I will give my healthy cells to anybody who needs them. Because they are someone’s baby cousin, or their Uncle, or close to someone’s heart somehow; I don’t want them to have to endure the pain of a loss like I did, and still do.
There are a million other things you can do to help the cancer community. Go to a hospital and see if you can hang out with some of the patients. Or donate toys or books or games to a children’s hospitals. They get bored in there sometime. Or educate the people around you, you may save their life.
World Cancer Day isn’t just a day to reflect on the losses of the past, present, and future. It’s a day to celebrate survivors (like my Aunt Jan and Aunt Rachelle, and my friend Sherri), and to celebrate how far we have come from even just ten years ago in patient care. Cancer is a scary thing, but if you talk about, and we come together, we can make help ease the pain.