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Getting CF Off of Your Chest (And into Their Minds)

Posted Jan 10 2010 8:41pm
I am happy to report that I have now, officially, been bare-chested* for over 24 hours! That's over 1 full day of glorious, comfortable, unrestricted freedom. All I can say is: ahhhhhhh!

*By which I of course mean that my port is no longer accessed. Obviously.

And speaking of chests, there's recently been a lot of, um, "talk" about that very subject on Facebook, as I'm sure more than a few of you have noticed. Or, more specifically, there's been a lot of talk around that subject, since very few people have actually come out and posted the reason behind their constant color-coded status updates. But as word got out and the colors spread like wildfire, it seems a good number of people somehow managed to get the memo about the ultimate purpose behind the madness: breast cancer awareness. A very noble cause, for sure.

As a CFer (and also as a concerned human being), I'm always interested in awareness campaigns, particularly health-related ones. What makes an awareness initiative successful? What tactics get people's attention without just annoying them or interrupting their day? (Sidenote to the guys outside the Whole Foods on my block: I appreciate what you're doing and totally admire your dedication for standing around in the 20-degree weather all to get a few signatures on your petition. I do not, however, feel that accosting people in the freezing cold while they attempt to juggle grocery items, purses, and, in some cases, a portable O2 tank is the best approach. Sorry.) How do you spread enough information to actually raise awareness while keeping it all concise? Extra bonus points for any awareness spiel that I can listen to in its entirety without wanting to fall asleep and/or go into my kitchen for a snack.

Anyway, because I was interested (and because I have Facebook and couldn't avoid it), I have to admit that I sat up and took notice a little bit during this most recent breast cancer awareness campaign. And while I didn't directly participate -- I have friends on FB that just don't need to know my bra color, thanks -- a lot of people I love and respect did. Kudos to them. And a lot of other people I know and respect had some pretty strong reactions to it, as well. Here is a brief sampling of some of the comments I heard/read/stumbled upon throughout the week:
  • A color by itself doesn't really raise awareness of anything. Nor does drawing attention to your boobs. If you want to support breast cancer awareness, do a walk or donate money or volunteer for the cause. Stop taking the lazy way out just to make yourself feel like you're doing something.
  • This campaign was more about flirting than about breast cancer. We get it, girls, you have breasts. Congratulations. Thirteen-year-old boys everywhere are logging into FB in record numbers, I'm sure.
  • This campaign was an awesome way to get the ball rolling. Sure, a color doesn't mean much when taken alone, but neither does a stretchy yellow bracelet. The point is to get people to ask about the status update, and by extension to talk/think/do something about breast cancer.
  • Any breast cancer awareness campaign that makes it onto TV news stations is alright with me, even if the original idea wasn't really my thing. Anything is better than nothing, after all.
  • And this really interesting personal-blog post by my cyster, Talana, (which is actually a CFer's reaction to a cancer patient's reaction to the campaign, if that makes any sense at all).
I tend to fall into the "anything is better than nothing" camp on this particular issue. As long as an awareness campaign isn't hurting anyone, then I really don't think it has to be perfect to still be pretty darn good. But ultimately, I think the best awareness grows out of personal experience: when people who actually have a disease are willing to speak up about it, or wear our chemo hair/scars/oxygen tubing in public, or even just be honest when people ask what's wrong or why we're coughing (because let's be honest: we don't really "just have asthma," no matter how convenient it is to just say that sometimes).

I'm not saying we all have to be in your face CF super-promoters 100% of the time, obviously. And I'm definitely not saying we should all be out on freezing street corners chasing after tired grocery shoppers. In fact, I guess all I'm really saying is that we're gonna cough anyway, so we might as well spend the 30 seconds it takes to tell people what's up. And if they don't want to listen, well, we could always try flashing custom-made bras with www.cff.org written across the chest. You know, just to get people talking.

But for now I leave you with the next best thing: a picture of my own, wonderfully needle-free chest, and the lovely port that now calls that chest home. Not to mention a super special guest star...


(And for the record: no, I'm not being coy in this picture, but I do challenge any of you to try getting your head, a chest port, and a particularly squirmy shorkie into one photo without looking a little funny!)

Now go get your CF off of your chest!
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