Cancer is a Word, Not a Sentence

I am the one who doesn’t like to fast forward during the commercials.  While others get up from the couch for a bathroom break, to grab a beer, take a phone call, or interrupt our programming to discuss the new season of whichever show we happen to be watching, I sit riveted to the screen. I wax nostalgic over the Hallmark ads, drool over the car and jewelry ads (especially those romantic proposals involving large diamond rings where every kiss begins with Kay’s), and weep copiously during the Kodak moments (Yes, I “turned around” and they were gone.).  I hear the Christmas harness bells of the Budweiser Clydesdales in my sleep. And I am faithful to my products, in my fashion.  To me, Chevy will always be “like a rock”, and CocaCola will always be “the real thing.” I love a good advertisement—always have and always will.

So it should come as no surprise that I am fascinated by the advertising slogans and campaigns which come and go in cancer—cancer awareness, cancer screening, cancer treatment, cancer support.  These ads and slogans  and symbols have become part of the national consciousness:  who can forget the television ad of the wasted old woman (or was it a veteran?) in a wheelchair, smoking a cigarette through a tracheostomy hole?  The “Anti-Marlboro” man creators may not have stopped kids from smoking, but you certainly can’t fault them on a shock value scale.  Pink ribbons and yellow wristbands have become part of our collective cancer symbolism.  See a pink ribbon, think breast cancer. See a yellow wristband, think Livestrong/Lance Armstrong.  Knee jerk, empathize, feel the pain, and above all, send the money.  It is desperately needed.

But to me, the best ads and slogans are the ones that involve a little humor, combined with a little humility and self deprecation.  I was watching the National Finals Rodeo on television last year and noticed that all the cowboys, including the bull riders ( the toughest of the tough though not necessarily the smartest of the smart) were wearing pink.  Each, to a man, had on a pink shirt, or a pink bandanna, even pink hats and gloves.  Kudos to Wrangler Jeans for their sponsorship, and their Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign for breast cancer.  In a similar vein, some of the funniest T shirts I’ve ever seen during the Susan B. Komen Races for the Cure have been worn by men, including “Don’t Let Cancer Steal Second Base”, not to mention the one with an antlered stag on the front proclaiming  “Save the Racks!”.  And then there is my husband’s personal favorite:  “Save a Life, Grope your Wife!”

Four years ago I travelled to Kansas to pick up a Ford E150 van being sold by the son-in-law and daughter of a friend out there.  Said son-in-law and daughter were artists, who had spent several summers touring with Ozzy Osbourne and his Ozzfest tour, running the souvenir/concession stands.  Not being a huge Ozzy fan, yet tooling across country on Interstate 40 with an Ozzfest bumper sticker on my well used van, I decided it was time for some research.  I was surprised to discover that Sharon, his wife, had been diagnosed with colon cancer while still in her 40’s, and had undergone successful treatment.  I was even more surprised to see how much money she had donated to Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, to develop a whole center for excellence in the treatment of colo-rectal cancer.  But what surprised and delighted me the most  was to see Sharon’s own take on advertising for cancer awareness—quite possibly the best slogan ever:


Top that one if you can!


      1. I saw lots of funny videos since my ex was in med school at the same time that YouTube and FaceBook emerged. There were plenty of evenings when looking at funny videos was a pleasant distraction from studying.

        Searching youtube for more videos by The Amateur Transplants and The Laryngospasms is a good start. The Happy Hospitalist has a decent compilation of animated videos too . Professor Grammer’s heart arrhythmia video is old school but well worth watching and can lead to a whole different time sink.

        I’ve been enjoying the stories.

  1. My favorite is a T-shirt worn by one of the ladies in our cancer support group. She had a double mastectomy with reconstruction for breast cancer. The shirt:
    “Yes these are fake.
    My real breasts tried to kill me.”

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