There are different levels to awareness; therefore, while we can be aware of certain things for long periods of time, it’s only when they hit close to home that one’s vision zooms in and details pop out like never before.
Straight after the initial shock of a cancer diagnosis in my family comes Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While that’s not the cancer my uncle has (don’t laugh, men can have breast cancer), the pink-everywhere-iness of the campaign is hitting me particularly hard this time around. I have come across the disease quite a number of times; each encounter opened my eyes wider to what the experience can be like. But of course this time, it’s very, very different.
Which leads me to wonder, can an “awareness month” really make a difference? Just like with petitions, it can, but it isn’t enough—it is only a piece of a much larger puzzle. In the case of cancer, raising awareness can help embrace major lifestyle changes proven effective in decreasing our risk of getting the disease. Similarly, a community more aware of the consequences of cancer will mobilize itself much more quickly to help a family struck by it, just like our community did for my uncle.
There is no doubt then that awareness combined with empowerment will result in increasingly effective action. So while the list and effectiveness of what we as individuals can do is still limited, engaging in them with the mindset of figuring out the next step will yield more and better avenues to explore.
Supporting Awareness Campaigns
This is one of the easiest thing we can all do. Be it my email or through any social media platforms available to us, we can raise awareness about cancer and its effects. We can repost carefully curated posts made by big names in the cancer world (Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Ovarian Cancer Canada, Prostate Cancer Canada) or choose to write something ourselves. Entire months are dedicated to raising awareness about either cancer in general or a specific type of cancer.
It might seem like “just talking” (and with 10 in 12 months of the year being dedicated to one or more types of cancer, there is a LOT of talking). And if we leave it at just talking, then yes, all these efforts will not amount to much. But as every good idea, every inspiration, and every kind gesture is founded to some extent on awareness built through conversation, a lot can steam from talk; the more elevated the conversation, the more elevated the potential solution it inspires. So post a little something this month on your Facebook page, or put up a little sign in your office’s kitchen to help raise awareness.
Buying and Sporting Known Insignias
Most of us know what a pink ribbon represents. At least it started with a pink ribbon—it has now expanded to all kinds of products sporting the now iconic image. It might seem like a cheap ploy to make money either directly through sales or indirectly through brand exposure (and I’m sure that in some cases, it is). But since there are more good people than bad people in our world, it’s not far-fetched to think that some of these items have been created by companies really seeking to contribute to the eradication of cancer.
What can wearing a little charm on one’s bracelet like the one pictured in this post help eliminate cancer? A few thoughts immediately come to mind. Because of its omnipresence, it can remind people of those around them who might be touched by it and make them reach out to offer support and help. It also can give permission to strangers to approach us and hold a conversation on the topic. I myself have chatted people wearing a pink ribbon up, curious as to why they were wearing it. Sometimes I would end up touched by the support that someone untouched by the disease would be giving; other times, I was enlightened by moving personal accounts that I still carry with me. It might seem like “just” a charm; but just like with any other object, it can be a lot more if we look for it.
Purchasing “Cancer-Branded” Products
Proceeds from the sale of most products branded with such things as pink ribbons are more often than not donated in part or in full to a charity or research organization related to the cause the branding represented. Cynicism aside about where the money goes, these organizations can really help.
It’s always better to do something than nothing. It you need something, or need to buy someone a gift, might as well make it a significant one. And by riding the wave and asking ourselves what else we can do, we are bound to contribute to the advancement of an important conversation.
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