Cancer has gotten quite the media attention lately.
John Green's book, The Fault in Our Stars, hit the big screen on June 5, 2014. The storyline follows Augustus Waters (portrayed by Ansel Elgort) and Hazel Grace (Shailene Woodley), two terminally ill teenagers who fall in love with each other after meeting at a cancer support group. As the plot progresses, they begin to find their purpose in each other, and experience things that their cancer has deprived them of previously.
Along with this, on June 10, 2014, the dramatic television show titled Chasing Life premiered for the first time on ABC Family. The story follows a go-getting New England woman named April (Italia Ricci). She's the typical 20-something woman complete with a slightly dysfunctional family, a demanding workforce and a picture perfect lover... until she receives the news that she has become diagnosed with leukemia, cancer of the blood.
With the release of this popular film and television show, there has been a spur of fan activity on social media... and not necessarily positive responses. Several people have tweeted things such as "I wish I had cancer so a boy would like me" or "sometimes I wish I had cancer! Maybe my parents would buy me everything I want knowing I would die." These responses, as drastic as they are, are often nurtured by the depiction of cancer on the big screen, television, magazines and books.
Often, the Hollywood depiction of cancer pales in comparison to what the disease actually entails. While the media depicts cancer as a glamorous, attention getting disease, the reality is that cancer is a destructive disease, one that deserves to be taken seriously. I have seen not only my sister go through cancer, but my mother, my cousin and my friends undergo the treatment and the emotional hardships associated with the disease. While we see the cancer ribbons everywhere we turn, there is much more to cancer that is never spoken about. We hear the need for donations, yet we never hear the stories of the disease. Frequently, media depicts a painless and glamorized view of cancer, one that brings the wrong depiction of what the disease actually is.
Cancer alone accounts for 41,000 deaths in the United States every year. It corrodes the spirit, body and mind. Not only are cancer patients often exposed to risky forms of treatment, these medicines do not always cure the sickness. In fact, the majority of medicines and other forms of treatment intended to cure the patient end up making the patient even sicker than before. Patients can lose their hair, a great portion of their body weight and are vulnerable to depression and loneliness.
Cancer is not something to be glamorized; but rather brought awareness to. While I admire the television shows and movies telling a difficult story, it is essential for the viewer to understand that cancer is something undesirable. Use these programs as motivation to get a mammogram, a colonoscopy or a pap smear to detect early stages of cancer; and to commit towards living a life full of gratitude, wellness and community service. You might not have cancer, but someone out there does. Someone out there is wanting the opportunities that you and I take for granted daily. And for me, that's motivation enough to do my part to prevent cancer from ruining one more life.