Correcting Every Little Language Lapse

My previous post griped about a local annual spring run/walk for breast cancer fundraising. There was another fundraiser going on that weekend I noticed but just couldn’t focus on until it was over. It was called Arts & Crabs Against Cancer—get it? Like arts & crafts but I’m at the Delmarva beaches so crabs are a big thing.

I wonder if the creators of the event realized the crab/cancer connection. I used a Maryland tote bag with crab decoration to carry my cancer notebook to each infusion and doctor visit—I still do. It gave me a grim chuckle to know that my home state’s claim to fame (crabs/Maryland crab cakes) was also the sign of cancer. I wonder if they know the crab connection for how and why cancer came to be called cancer. (So glad the filmmakers put that little tidbit right in the beginning of the PBS film.)

I could find very little about the event other than date, location, planned activities, and a vague mention that proceeds would benefit cancer research. There was no website, just a Facebook page. After the event was over, on Monday or Tuesday I saw a thank you post on their page, with the note that the money raised would go to “12 fantastic cancer-battling causes”.

It is often noted in cancer blogs that words have meaning, be careful with them. So the “12 fantastic cancer-battling causes” is disconcerting. I think they mean organizations, not causes—isn’t the actual cause “battling cancer”? But even worse—which 12? How do I know they are reputable? Is Komen, with their lack of financial support for metastatic breast cancer, one of them? I’m pretty hell bent on NOT giving them money.

I did not go and contribute money, and even if I knew the designated organizations, contributing money is not in my budget these days. So should I speak and make a fuss? Should I point out that this is another classic example of “just say your fun event is for a good cause and people will come and think well of your business”?

I mean the event planners (I think it was a restaurant partnered with other non-profits but I may be wrong) no ill will. I get it, this is how business and marketing works. There has to be “something in it for me”. Their hearts are in the right place, and probably have other motivations to create such an event—like a loved one with cancer, perhaps.

But I still wish the benefited organizations (not causes) had been listed up front, and prior to the event taking place. Consumers are being trained to think a “good cause” is a good enough reason to spend money. I don’t need to go into the economics of it all—I’m sure far smarter bloggers than I have tackled this. It just bugs me so much. I research every major purchase, even little ones too. I assume others do so as well. I want the most reliable vehicle, the best coffee maker, the best and most reliable laptop. I refuse to throw money away on shoddy products. Why is this attitude not used in regards to cancer organizations too? Sadly, most people don’t take the time to find out if a non-profit is just wasting money. So it would not work if I went to the organizers of the event and said, “hey maybe more people would come to the event, make it successful, if you revealed the beneficiaries”. Because it would not make any difference, people still show up. “For a good cause” was a good enough selling point.

My annoyance with this topic was compounded when I ran across this statement complete with picture: “Pete Townshend and Eddie Vedder announced a ‘Celebrating the Who’ benefit concert for cancer”.

Sigh. I’ve tackled this before, as have others. We all dislike it when the retail clerk at point of sale asks if we’d like to give money to breast cancer. Uh, no. I want to give money to KILL breast cancer. Leaving off the word research or whatever is so important to many of us. The caption assumes that anyone reading it would know of The Who’s long-time support of a UK charity for teens with cancer, and their creation of a mirror organization in the U.S. Only a jerk would think Vedder and Townshend are trying to do something to benefit cancer itself.

Hey, I never said was NOT a jerk—I AM a jerk! So should I contact the media sources that keep using that or a similar headline, to correct them? Make passive aggressive, finger-wagging statements in comments sections?

This slogan culture, this short-hand way of speaking, this skipping over the details, is doing a disservice to the general understanding of cancer, how charities and fund-rasing works. Yes, I realize I’m a bit over-wordy here on this blog sometimes, so of course I think this way. It’s just that every time I see slogans on ads that say “support cancer” or “benefit for cancer” it feels like hearing nails on a chalkboard.

To me, this is just a small piece of the puzzle of the awareness vs. understanding or education challenge. People like to shop for a cure, show support, but they don’t really know what it means, if the “product” (the charitable group) is any good–and why should they care? They aren’t stuck with the crappy product (not enough money spent on research, too much spent on self-perpetuating ad campaigns). But we are stuck with it.

So, yes, maybe I’m nitpicking today. I’ve just seen this type of thing too many times. I don’t have the energy to bring it up every time I see it. Will it make a difference even if I did?

I’m not even going to go into the clichés I’ve read and heard too often, and the bad compare-diseases-to-get-attention strategies that are just wearing me out lately. Not now, not yet, some other post.

I’m so tired of the way society talks about cancer.

Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

7 thoughts on “Correcting Every Little Language Lapse”

  1. It is absolutely correct when calling the cancer language a “culture” because that is exactly what it has become. And because it is cultural, it will be very challenging to change. I think most of the annoying things that happen in cancer-land is also part of that culture.

    I think we, the patients, are the ones to correct those things. It will take everyone to contribute though. If you submit a letter to these organizations, perhaps it should be signed by all of us, or maybe we should all send our letters. (It also makes me feel we need a website/blog dedicated to only these annoyances, where all patients contribute. We can mention these organizations.)

    And yes, consumers are ignorant about which organizations are spending the right money (where they are investing, IF they are at all). I was one of them and only got to learn about it after I went through cancer. Because honestly, most people don’t want to know anything about cancer unless they necessarily have to. Again, it’s part of the whole culture.

    By the way, I don’t think you are a jerk at all. We need to speak up – all of us.

    Keep it coming!


    1. Sigh oh yes, it has become a “cancer culture”. I think it maybe it is part of a larger cultural thing too–like blaming patients for illness–which is not limited to cancer–or the way friends/family have a difficult time dealing with the personal traumas of others. So yes, the cultural changes will take a loooooong time. It is difficult to do. I once made a comment about some singer who “lost his battle with cancer”,(I asked why the publication did not say he died of cancer, instead) and wound up getting lectured by another commenter about how great, what a legend, this singer was. I was criticizing the article/headline written about him–not him. But these cliches are so accepted that people just cannot conceive of anyone questioning them! I kind of got tired of trying after that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “give money to breast cancer.” … I always respond, I’ve given breast cancer my breasts, and now I’m giving my life, I think that’s enough. You’re not a jerk. I wish more people would be as honest as you are… xoxo


  3. If this is nitpicking, then let’s all pick every nit. This crap is too often about exploiting the ’cause.’ WE know that. When is the rest of the world going to know that? Only if we keep pointing it out to them, apparently. Oy.


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