Save a Life Thru Social Media

Can you impact cancer by sitting in front of your computer?  If you use social media the answer is yes.  Will it make a huge difference if you do nothing else but send out messages? Without a doubt, affirmatively yes!

Celebrities are now publicly stating that they have a diagnosis of cancer.  This use to not be the case as  there was too much concern it would hurt their careers and that they would not get hired. Plus, going through treatment is hard enough without being scrutinized by society and media. 

Organizations have popped up, large and small to try to change that by making information readily available and seeking better treatment options.  Many organizations spend thousands of dollars doing this and trying to create support systems and change laws for better treatment options.  Research and recovery rates have improved.  Too often, in the past, cancer patients didn’t have enough assistance once they received the diagnosis so they chose to not get treatment. 

Still support can be lacking for many who receive a cancer diagnosis. Far too often people react as if it is contagious or they prefer to not be around the disease. The American Cancer Society has made "Hope Houses" across major cities to help patients have a place to stay for treatment close to cancer treatment hospitals because too many are left helpless  with no one willing to help them out. 

Even within a patient's circumference of family and friends, many are fearful of what to say so chose to saying anything and stay completely out of touch.  At a time when a person needs these people front and center in their lives the most, support is gone.  This increases disappointment adding to the sadness of the disease, which is not good for recovery of the disease.

This is not true of all patients though. Some have a wealth of support from family, friends, and other sources.  The ones that are lacking the support is a larger segment of the population than most realize.  It is surprising too, when cancer has become so prevalent part in our society. 

More and more celebrities have had exposure to what is going on in the world of cancer, to the lack of support, to the number of diagnoses and the impact it is having on American families. By visiting cancer centers, helping with Make a Wish foundation requests and fielding letters, they hear the heart-wrenching and the hero stories of fight for survival stories.  And, in return, many are beginning to share their own stories, to show their courage.

Cancer is a personal struggle, very intimate.  To share it outwardly in the public eye is very hard, especially early on, when you are dealing with it yourself.  It is commendable, these celebrities that are willing to literally jump outside their comfort zone and share this experience with us all.   Their stories, their experiences, and the cancer becomes top page news.

No one may care about the mother of two young men named Julie who lost her
battle with cancer a few years ago and left two boys just starting college living in Franklin, TN but they do care about Farrah Fawcett, the woman they grew up watching on Charley’s Angels.  No one really knows, nationally, of a driven woman fighting a lifelong battle with an endocrine-type cancer who started a few years ago a National Research Organization with a top renowned doctor working in this field but they know of Steve Jobs who died with the same type of cancer.
The list goes on of celebrities with cancer who have told their story to all of us; fans of Sex and the City know of Cynthia Dixon, fans of Ted Kennedy in politics, fans of Patrick Swayze from Dirty Dancing. It has become more the norm to discuss cancer, all types on the national scene by celebrities in the media.

I worked at the American Cancer Society (ACS) offices in Nashville, Tennessee and Memphis as the Director of Corporate Communications. Several years later, I began working as a volunteer in social media for some of the event programs, recruitment for a large scale research project and Making Strides for Breast Cancer.  I saw, firsthand, internally and then externally what happens when a celebrity goes public with their cancer diagnosis.

 Internal staff are immediately notified and kept updated as to what is in the media about the celebrity. The reason is that phone lines and social media go ballistic!  The volume of calls and communication via social media and such for  questions, requests and concerns skyrockets.  Individuals contacting the organization now care deeply about cancer, either about themselves or a loved one after hearing the story. It is truly amazing to experience this firsthand! 

Sometimes it is not even about the type of cancer the celebrity has, it  is the fact that cancer is in the news.  Cancer awareness is in the forefront of everyone’s mind, and for the moment in time, that split second, it is okay to talk about it at length, as long as it remains in the news.   The more times the media makes a release about a celebrity and the volume it is tweeted, shared on Facebook, put on Google+, Instagram or wherever, the busier the offices are nationwide, in particular the 800# and hits to the website.

The effect this has on cancer is incredible! Being proactive is key to decreasing the odds of being diagnosed and to early diagnosis. The sooner a person is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat it and the greater likelihood of combating cancer. Everyone benefits. The more information a person can receive from ACS free of charge, hopefully the sooner they can get on with the business of living.

What you can do is promote that information, when a celebrity announces their diagnosis? Pass it out to your network of contacts!  Unfortunately everyday stories of the common person don’t always have the impact.  Read the message from the celebrity first, become informed. You need to know the story to share it.   The reason a celebrity is forthright in telling their story is not to increase their notoriety but to promote public awareness and save lives.  You can help their efforts as we are all in this together.  

Remember that one click is usually never enough to get people to pay attention. Take the time to push these stories out, over and over again. Your click may save a life. Isn’t that worth something? Perhaps it may be someone else’s click that saves yours! 

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