On the 4th February, people mark World Cancer Day – it came about in the year 2000 and is an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control which describes itself as ‘the largest and oldest international cancer organisation dedicated to taking the lead in convening, capacity building and advocacy initiatives that unite the cancer community to reduce the global cancer burden, promote greater equity, and integrate cancer control into the world health and development agenda’. I want to write something a little more personal than that (although those are very admirable aims, especially looking at cancer as a global issue and not just a Western one)
Last Friday, the very sad news broke that comedian Jeremy Hardy had died from cancer – I mostly knew of him from his appearances on I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue but my parents got the chance to see him live, which they both loved. I’m not sure what type of cancer he had or for how long he had it, but two things struck me in all the follow-up and the reactions. Firstly, how all the tributes were so heartwarming and loving – it seemed like everyone who had met him only had good things to say, which I know is often the case when someone dies, and nobody can actually be 100% good 100% of the time, but the tributes spoke of him so warmly and fondly. Secondly, I was struck by how we speak about someone who has died – if they’re older, people often talk about how they ‘had good innings’ or ‘it was their time’. For young people, especially but not exclusively children, people often say the horrible phrase ‘God just needed another angel in heaven’. There isn’t really much that can be said for those who are in the middle though, although I think with Jeremy Hardy in particular, ‘a life well lived’ is the phrase that comes to mind.
That should be the end of the potentially emotional bit!
I think World Cancer Day, in this country at least, can be used to do three main things – fundraising, support and research. Obviously these are linked and without money, the latter two can’t really happen. At the bottom of this post are a few fundraising links to charities and organisations – if you are able to, I’m sure they would appreciate any donation, but if you can’t, volunteering time is so important too. A few friends of mine have done things for the Brain Tumour Charity, for example, and I know there’s always opportunities to volunteer either at one-off events or in the longer term, as well as running races or baking cakes for the charities! We also all have our own priorities too, whether that’s another illness or issue – this post isn’t meant to guilt anyone into contributing either time, money or resources.
I’m not a science-y person, so I can’t really talk about research with any knowledge apart from it being incredibly important, especially research into earlier diagnosis and into treatment. Support (whether that’s in the form of physical care for the person with cancer or emotional support for them and their families and friends) is often overlooked, but is also important. The Young Adults meet up in Birmingham last month was great for that reason. I am probably biased but I think it’s especially important when you fall in that ‘young adult’ age bracket – partly that’s because you’re often dealing with quite a lot of other ‘life stuff’ and it can sometimes feel like cancer is robbing you of so many things. I’m sure this is also true for both younger and older people too.
The figure that people used to say was that one in three people would get cancer in their lifetimes. Whether due to better diagnosis, I’m not sure, but that is now one in two. This is obviously a huge number of people, and their families and friends will inevitably also be affected. I suppose all that remains is a huge thank you to those who work in the NHS, whatever role you play – especially as we’re approaching the dreaded B-word, and with cuts to NHS funding, now feels even more important than ever to fully support the NHS and all those who work in it.
This is the post I wrote for World Cancer Day 2018 – https://debbiescancerblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/world-cancer-day/
Here’s the official website for World Cancer Day: https://www.worldcancerday.org/
The Brain Tumour Charity: https://www.thebraintumourcharity.org/
Brain Tumour Support: https://www.braintumoursupport.co.uk/
This isn’t a comprehensive list at all, and you may know of other ones (in which case I can add them here!)