During my visit to Palestine, the one very shocking thing that I quickly became aware of, was that everyone I met thought their cancer was a death sentence. This is something that has followed down the generations and will take a long time to change. But the facts are quite different from that. Naturally there are many issues there that make things difficult, but so many more of us are living with cancer, than dying of it. Obviously the earlier the disease is detected the better chance of survival we have.
I have come from the generation where cancer (The Big C) as it was known was certainly not discussed openly in my family. My Dad died of bowel cancer and my Mum had breast cancer and survived for more than 25 years. But neither discussed their issues openly, with my Mum not even telling her Mum at all. Thankfully things have changed and with the revolution that social media has created, most of us want to share every part of our life, including our cancer.
Marketing and propaganda plays such a big part in our lives, and why should the cancer sector be any different? Watching my TV or working on my computer, I am bombarded with adverts featuring particularly either children, or old people, asking me to leave money in my will or run a race to help cure cancer, mmm as if!! The fancy slogans dreamed up by advertising agencies being paid a fortune by the very charities asking for more!
But my question is, are they using that fear factor to try and appeal to our generous side and send them money? I am not a conspiracy theory man at all, but I have to say that there is a lot of money to be made from the negative side of cancer. Big pharma’s never ending chase for a magic cure, backed up by giant charities with their wonderfully expensive well branded projects that are created to ‘help’ us.
The reality is that the facts and figures can be put out with a much more ‘positive spin’ on them. Talking about how many more of us are surviving for longer and how that is improving. But I don’t see that at all. Many of us are lazy and believe what we read or see on our phones etc, which has created a powerful marketing feel around large cancer organisations.
In my own work I see and hear some very distressing cases, but I am in it to make a difference, which we can and are doing with very little money. My focus is on the positive things we can do for people affected by cancer. I am in no way clinical/medical but we can do things that professionals can’t. We know what it feels like to be affected by cancer and work accordingly.
The chaos caused by politicians is also a great reason for the continuing negativity, With seemingly the most simple things creating life threatening issues for many. These are all issues that are totally out of my control. But one thing I have learned is that good news does not sell, and I rarely see any about cancer. Of course there are plenty of positive things to talk about, but do they raise money?
Fear is an incredibly powerful emotion. It can make us psychologically weak even before we have faced the reality of the challenge. Our head starts playing games with us which makes it very difficult to deal with situations logically. But for some of us, we react positively and our defences come up early to help. There are no rules of course, and fear can overtake us very quickly. I have always been a positive person, which helped me deal with the challenges I faced in recent years. But if you are not that way inclined, no amount of talk about a positive attitude will change that!
Of course we know cancer is becoming more common, therefore we need to look at innovative ways of helping people. We cannot forget the impact that it is having on our society or treat it lightly. But I believe that we need to focus much more on the positive aspects that are happening now, due to our increased knowledge and the availability of technology. Cancer feeds on fear, if not physically but emotionally, so is it not time that we look at another way of advertising?
There is still so much to be done of course and we will always need money to be donated, but do we always have to be guilt tripped into donating? For those that are not aware, cancer is not one disease, so there will never be a single cure, no matter what the adverts say! Is there really a danger that if we don’t frighten people they will stop donating, not just for cancer but for many other causes too?
I am an official support partner of the Grove Hotel in Bournemouth. The only hotel in the UK specifically for people affected by cancer and other life limiting conditions.