When cancer "awareness" isn't enough, it's time to take action and become advocates.
When you hear the word “awareness”, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For most of us, I think it’s safe to assume that “cancer” would be the answer. Probing further, I think as far as “cancer awareness” goes, “breast cancer awareness” would be the next thing that comes to mind. October is flooded with pink everything to bring awareness to breast cancer. Other cancers have their awareness months too, with Childhood Cancer Awareness month in September probably being the 2nd most recognized and publicized behind breast cancer.
But what does “awareness” mean exactly? According to Cambridge Dictionary, awareness is defined as “knowledge that something exists, or understanding of a situation or subject at the present time based on information or experience.” Okay, great, we are aware of cancer. Of course we are, we’re oncology nurses. But is awareness enough?
Will being “aware” of this life-altering disease change anything? You can “like” posts on Facebook or even better, “share” one that talks about cancer. After that brief moment of being aware, your life goes on. But will that awareness bring back my grandad, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, your loved one? Absolutely not. You know what will bring about change? ACTION!
What does that look like? First, educate yourself. Do some comparisons. How much money is spent on cancer research? Just as an example, childhood cancer only receives 4% of the total cancer funding. 4%! Let that sink in. Our children, our future, only receive 4% of the millions (some reports show it to be billions) of dollars set aside for cancer research funding.
Armed with knowledge like this, what can you do? What sort of ACTION can you take? If you have been personally affected by cancer, whether yourself or someone you love, you know just how important ACTION is. These days, there are 5K’s for everything, with PurpleStride (pancreatic cancer) and Relay for Life (cancer in general) being just a few of the many. Seek one out that gives its proceeds specifically to cancer research.
If there is a specific cancer that has impacted your life, and it is unfortunately one that doesn’t receive much funding, write your congressman. Why is it the way it is? How can we change that? Advocate for yourself or someone you love.
Make a donation to a foundation that provides resources to individuals or families battling cancer. Help a family that is battling cancer, whether that be running errands, providing food, or helping financially. The costs of cancer treatment are unfathomable and can cripple a family. Talk about it. Don’t assume it’s never going to happen to you or someone you know. We as nurses know that cancer doesn’t discriminate. It destroys physically, emotionally, financially.
Every day, when I wake up and am reminded that I can no longer see, hear, or hug my loved ones thanks to cancer, I have renewed resolve to take ACTION and not just be aware. Those who have been personally affected are plenty aware too, trust me.
Won’t you join me in making ACTION the new “awareness"?