Cancer, Schmantzer. When Will We Market Death Awareness?

October’s over. The debris from the pink tsunami I see in every store I visit could be evidence of the recession or that people are as sick as I am of the idea that consumerism can heal our disease, which I suppose are the same thing. Or they could be evidence that this particular product push has had its day. Maybe it’s time for something new?

In October I got pretty hot in a debate on the BlogHer site on “Do we really need Breast Cancer Awareness month?,”  initiated by the great Denise Tanton. Suzanne Reisman followed up with her own piece, "Breast Cancer Awareness month is bunk." I contended that the pink has done its job, and it’s time to move on.

(I could also engage further in questions of how much funding BRCA receives compared to other cancers, the politics of cancer advocacy, the limitations of the American Cancer Society, the effectiveness of funding research versus reducing disparities in health care delivery and outcomes, how much money from these purchases actually gets to an organization, or how much each organization actually helps people with cancer. I could argue about the different types of BRCA, the ages they affect women, and the efficacy of mammograms for each type. I could talk about black women’s rates of death, which are much higher. Or about health care reform, pharmaceutical companies, and the changes that would make a bigger difference than mammograms. But I won’t do that here. [Do you like how I spent 124 words “not talking about it? Me too. Where’s a good editor when you need one?])

I do, in general, support medical research and public education about health. I have several friends who’ve lost loved ones to this deadly disease and I in no way wish to diminish their pain, or the courage presented every day by people faced with any cancer.

But I think it’s time for a change. (No, not that one, but thanks.)

See, we’re all going to die, right? No exceptions. And probably, we won’t be the first person we know who will undergo this fate, which many say is the only fate.

My public awareness campaign would encourage us all to plan for the inevitable. Here are the elements:
-- Discussion with your loved ones that specifically gives them permission to remarry and do anything else that’s important to them.
-- Write a will and make sure everyone knows it’s true to your intentions. If folks are going to receive bad news, might as well tell them now, or they will make life hell for everyone else. And for the love of God, put in a fund for a mediator in case of dispute so your family can avoid fighting in court.
-- Prepare an Advance Health Care Directive (I just preached about my experience the other day). Understand that this is a dynamic document, because you never know what the situation may be. Discuss it with loved ones but have paper to comfort and cover them in this most stressful time.
-- In some states, you may need a living will and some other documents. I’m not a lawyer. At least Google it, okay?

Naturally a public awareness campaign is necessary. People can be eased into the discussion. Just like “breast” 30 years ago, “death” is still a fairly dirty word and something most of us would rather not think about at the grocery store or in the garden products aisle at Home Depot.

But just think about the products in this campaign (of course everything is black):

-- Ribbons? Sure, what the hell, black ribbons. Satin, not grosgrain, those Swarovski crystals make a lovely accent and they get cheaper every year.
-- TV ads featuring famous actors: Don’t be morbid. Be prepared.
-- A panel on the bus: Talk about the end: it isn’t just for widows any more.
(and) How much do you love your family? Will love be enough? *
(and) Wow! What bargains! How much did you spend today to protect your family?
-- A frisbee: Life’s a breeze when your Advance Health Care Directive is in place. (Maybe we make a boomerang for Hindu outreach).
-- Bumper stickers: Shit Happens. That’s why I just updated my will.
(and) In case of apocalypse, I speak to Jesus. In case of cancer, I speak to Hospice.
(and) I wrote my will. What’s your excuse for driving like that?
-- Produce state-by-state kits of the necessary documents and sell at FedEx office, Target, etc. Cute designs for men and women, Gen-X and Gen-Y, Latinos. Lots of butterflies on the chick stuff, motorcycles for guys. (Yes, it’s all available for free, but to reach everyone you need a consumer option. As demonstrated by BRCA).
-- Partner with banks to produced branded kits to offer FREE when you open an account.

Yeah, I presented it as sort of a joke (sort of), but I do believe in this cause.

Don’t you think there’s room somewhere, somehow, for a more public discussion of what death requires of each and every one of us?

* Note the potential synergy with life insurance marketing -- we can learn from their successes and failures, and I bet they'd love to work with us. Win-win!

* * * Comments * * *


Debbie said...

Yes, I completely agree! We need to not be so afraid of the inevitable and start getting more comfortable with discussing death. I know since my husband died I am much more comfortable and realistic about the topic of death. Maybe it's because I'm not afraid of it anymore. The most dreaded thing I could imagine has happened to me so in a way some of the fear is gone. If we could only find a way for people to lose their fear of talking about death before they have to suffer through the death of a loved one, everyone would be better off.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Kim said...

Amen. Yet another perfect post !!

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Thanks, friends. Sometimes I feel what we believe is so "20/20 Hindsight" and I really wonder what is the best way to reach new ears.

Very glad to have you all listening -- maybe we can do something great together!

Lord knows this tired, angry world needs us.



Suzann said...

Yep - our world just doesn't like talk about death - I love this post and tonight it is also nice to laugh. thanks.

Widow in the Middle said...

A hearty here here! I started to fantasize about wearing a black ribbon with the words, "Don't be afraid - talk about death" or some other such wording. Wonder what the response would be if I did so. How about a day created called "Talk About Death Day?"

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Suzanne and WITM: Thanks for supporting the "cause." Some day we'll make it real. A forum for bereaved people to reach out and make positive change in this world.

Yes, we can.

(But not now!)



Lonesome Dove said...

Your ideas for bumper stickers are perfect! My husband died 12 weeks ago and we did not have a will. It makes it difficult to "move forward" while we wait on probate to settle the estate. I tell everyone that if they do nothing else, GET A WILL.

I always heard that nothing is for sure except death and taxes, and Uncle Sam always reminds us of this fact around Christmastime. Not that I'm suggesting a coordinated effort with that dreaded black sheep of the "family", but I must just use your ideas for some gifts to my more cherished family members.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...


I'm so sorry for your loss and for your legal stuff. Even though everything was "in order" for us, it was a huge stress and much time to manage everything, and many of my friends had far worse situations.

You'll find a lot of us online, hope we can ease things for you.

I'll keep an eye on your blog, and please let me know if you need ideas, resources, feedback on this tough stuff.




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...