In the last week or so, I’ve seen an uptick in the number of people posting the latest “breast cancer awareness” meme. I think I may have sprained an eyeball after reading them. I am honest-to-goodness sick and tired of “awareness” campaigns that do nothing to either raise awareness or effect real change.
It’s not because the memes are stupid, although they are that, too. It’s because to my knowledge, cutesy, cryptic Facebook status updates don’t actually change a single thing about breast cancer’s existence.
Not only that, raising awareness by virtue of telling people, “Hey! This crappy thing is happening!” doesn’t give anyone the tools they need to address it. It would be like standing on your lawn holding a sign that said, “There are starving people in the world.” Yes, but what do you want us to know, believe, or do about it?
You know what does make a difference? Doing something. Don’t just pass around a cute meme because you think people are going to magically understand that it’s meant to make people think about breast cancer. You want real “awareness”? Then do something about it. Give to a charity. Spend time visiting a hospice. Take care of your loved ones who are suffering from any type of cancer and the effects of treatment.
I have a friend who put it this way (not specifically about breast cancer):
That’s really all she needed to say. And then she did something: She set up a way for people to donate for research. Several other friends have run charity 5Ks, half-marathons, and full marathons. Still others have given their time and their money to charitable organizations. Many have cared for loved ones who were at various stages of their cancer journey.
I don’t need a meme to remind me that cancer sucks. Breast cancer is in my family. I lost a friend to metastatic cancer this summer. So forgive me if I don’t care what color your bra is, where you put your purse, or your shoe size and hairstyling timetable. I care about the people, both women and men, who have lost their hair, their breasts, and their lives in their fight against this menace.
If you feel compelled to raise awareness, then don’t use hidden messages. Try something like,
This month we’re raising awareness about breast cancer. The best defense right now is early detection. Remember to do your breast self-examinations, see your primary care doctor regularly, and have mammograms.
You can follow that up with links for how to do a self-exam or your favorite charity.
If that doesn’t appeal to you, then go with a personal story:
Hey, everyone, I just want to remind you that cancer sucks. Here’s my [or my friend/co-worker/ relative's] story. Please join me in the search for better treatment options.
My friend is right; cancer sucks. Let’s do something about it.