One of the great things about the work I do is that I get to meet so many wonderful people from around the world. Of course social media has been an incredible tool for me, so distance is no longer a barrier. A regular part of my life now is ‘Skyping’ with people in some far flung places, and we are all talking about the issues surrounding cancer. Of course many of these are common, wherever we live, so it is wonderful to be part of the global movement that is working to improve the lives of people living with cancer.
One of those wonderful people I referred to earlier is Chloé, who writes about the issues of being ‘labeled,’ and the negativity that this can create. I don’t know why, but as a society we have become very keen to try and fit people into hypothetical boxes and stereotypes. Of course as cancer is becoming more common in all of our lives, it is becoming more of an issue, so Chloé and I have decided to bring it more out into the open.
We now live in a very fast moving world, where we get fed so much information wherever we go, that our brain gets so little time to make up its mind. So it seems that we very quickly make snap judgements about people based on little real information. What a person looks like, how they behave, what they wear, their religion or colour are all labels we readily use to instantly form our opinions of someone. When I was young I was told “never judge a book by its cover,” never really understanding those pearls of wisdom until later in life, and how true are those words?
I was talking to my wife and friends recently about my thoughts of getting a tattoo, yes me! With no exception everyone laughed and told me it was a ridiculous idea, immediately seeing me as some sort of ex prisoner. They all had their ideas about people who have body art. Not remembering that both my boys have tattoos and have high flying jobs! This is just a quick example of labels.
Having dealt with people my entire life, what I do know is that we are all unique, and if you ask people to describe something you will get so many different ideas of the same thing. So what does having cancer mean to you? I’m sure that if you have it, it will mean something different to those who don’t. But aren’t we all just humans, doing our best? In my opinion we are all affected by cancer in one way or another, and as it is getting more common we need to find better ways of understanding how it can impact on us.
One of the most difficult things to understand about cancer is more the psychological issues than the physical ones. For many of us the scars are more emotional and last our lifetime. Because there is nothing to see, does not mean that everything is ok. Our lives have been changed forever. But we are not looking for sympathy, just to get on with life the best way we can. However, society makes that very difficult, as wherever we go we also face discrimination. Work, banks, insurance companies to name but a few. How can we pick up our lives with our health issues and all the other things added to the mix?
Why do we face such lack of understanding in this day and age? Of course not that long ago, cancer was perceived as a ‘death sentence,’ but we have come a long way since then. More of us are living with it than dying from it, bringing a unique set of problems. Many of these institutions are happy to just put us in the ‘affected by cancer list,’ which has almost become a black list! As I mentioned earlier we are all unique but why are we treated the same, and so negatively?
There is so much stigma attached to the labels that society creates, and I remember it well from my early school days. Anyone who appeared different to most was targeted. Overweight, ginger hair, freckles, glasses and the list goes on. But once I got through those years I thought the issues would disappear in adulthood, little realising that they would become more apparent. Now religion and race seem to be two of the most common labels we find today. Everyone judged by the few images we see daily on our communication devices.
This is an issue that is becoming more important wherever we live in the world. How can we expect positive results with so much negativity around how we view others. With so many people being affected by cancer we cannot let this continue. We need to stop the stereotyping of people and take a little more time to see what goes on beneath the surface. Who knows you may be pleasantly surprised!
I am delighted to be collaborating with Chloé on this important issue and have done my own video. If you would like to join us with this campaign we would love you to share yours. Anything between 2-8 mins, it’s easy to do, then upload it to the site. Please take a look to see the incredible work that is being done with the subject of labels in general.