Soft, sad music. The screen is dark; a man’s sad face appears. “I wish I had testicular cancer,” he says. His face is replaced by a sad woman who says, “I wish I had breast cancer.” The gentle voiceover, a woman’s voice, says, “Early diagnosis saves lives,” as some symptoms of pancreatic cancer are listed in white letters on the black screen, one by one.
Perhaps in response to a massive backlash, Pancreatic Cancer Action, the UK charity that launched this campaign, has released an “Official Statement Regarding Advert”, which begins:
All types of cancer are horrific and no one would wish for themselves or anyone they care about to be affected by this terrible disease. Our hearts go out to anyone who has been affected by it.
It is important to remember that the advert features real pancreatic cancer patients and all they want is a better chance of survival.
As you know, awareness is key to early diagnosis and this is particularly true for pancreatic cancer. In our case, despite the best efforts of ourselves and other pancreatic cancer organisations, for 40 years, pancreatic cancer patients in the UK have faced the same grim prognosis – only a three per cent chance of survival and an average life expectancy of less than six months.
Pancreatic cancer is horrible; I’ve lost two friends to the disease, and they suffered greatly. I am very glad to hear that early detection seems to be important for increasing pancreatic cancer survival. If that is the case, then the more awareness the better!
That is not the case with breast cancer. About thirty percent of everyone who gets breast cancer, who is diagnosed at any stage—even the earliest–will sooner or later develop metastatic breast cancer, which is incurable.
Like the speakers featured in the advert video, I am a real cancer patient. I wish I didn’t have metastatic breast cancer. I don’t think my condition and that of my brothers and sisters in mets is enviable. Some of us might even have preferred to have a disease that takes us faster over having to endure years of pain and suffering before an inevitable death.
Pancreatic Cancer Action is not, in my opinion, the bad guy here. If there is any blame to be assigned, I would lay it squarely at the feet of the “pinking” of breast cancer. The smiling image of the “warrior” who had a few tough months of treatment and then “beat the cancer” and is now happier and healthier than ever, is a lie. Breast cancer is not a stubbed toe or a head cold. Breast cancer maims and kills. No one can ever be sure they will not have a recurrence. Again, almost one in three of us do.
My plea to Pancreatic Cancer Action and to all such awareness campaigns is this: There is no such thing as a good cancer, a better cancer. Please do not promote your cause by treading on other suffering people. We are all in this leaky boat together. Thank you.