Of Larcenous Squirrels and Social Media
Suppose you’re at a gathering, a party or whatever, and someone says to the group at large:
“There was a squirrel in my car this morning!”
Or, “I’ve decided to stop wearing underwear!”
Or even, “Today I used my kids to get out of a speeding ticket!”
This isn’t a stranger, it’s someone you know, so you would respond, right? “Hope he didn’t have the keys!” or “TMI, dude!” or “Glad your kids are good for something!!” So then this person says: “Ha ha ha!! You should not have commented! This is the 2016 breast cancer awareness game! Now you have to pick some idiotic announcement and tell it to everyone! Don’t be a spoil sport, just choose your poison and fool everyone in your circle of acquaintances! Sorry I fell for it too, but it all goes for Breast Cancer!”
If you’re like me, you’d want to punch that person in the face, but at the same time you’d feel like a jerk because hey, it’s all for breast cancer awareness.
Except that it isn’t.
This chain post found me on Facebook recently, and I felt exactly as described above. (Sorry, Rich. You’re a great guy and I don't blame you, but I still wanted to punch you.) I agreed to play along, which is something I normally don’t do, because my Mom suffered from breast cancer and eventually died when it metastasized into bone cancer. But before I went and made other people angry, I googled “breast cancer awareness game”, because this is 2016 and you should check the veracity of anything you find on the Internet, and guess what?
This is a hoax. You probably saw that coming. But it’s a hoax that’s been circulating for YEARS, possibly since 2010. Every year it gets a facelift and goes around again, to the point that there are articles saying, “It’s time again to debunk the breast cancer game!” It's a hoax, because it does nothing to actually raise awareness, it includes no facts or figures, has no connection to any organization that fights breast cancer, and doesn't even suggest that you donate money to help. I don't know why anyone started this thing (or why anyone starts any kind of chain post, for that matter), but it ain't for awareness.
Needless to say, I don’t think much of this “game”.
My mom was diagnosed in 1985, during my freshman year at college. Nobody told me because they didn’t want me to worry; I didn’t find out until I came home at Christmas and by then she had undergone her first mastectomy and was in chemotherapy. I don’t remember too much about her struggle because I distanced myself from it with friends, college, summer jobs and the like. Most of what I know comes from the book she wrote with my younger brother, “Moms Don’t Get Sick”. After her treatment and reconstructive surgery, Mom lived until 1995, dying just a couple of weeks before we relocated from North Carolina to be near her, and about a year before we had her first grandchild. The last time I saw her, we were talking about my new house and how close we would be, and I got impatient because she didn’t know exactly where it was. I’m not sure, but I think her last words to me were, “Please don’t be angry with me.”
This is what it means when I think of breast cancer. Not a stupid Facebook chain post.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to post a very clear status update on social media, with this blog entry included. I’m going to post one every day during Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is October. I’m going to include links to the American Cancer Society and the National Breast Cancer Foundation so that people can find facts and figures and donate money if they have a mind to. And in no uncertain terms I’m going to remind people to do self-exams and get mammograms. And YOU are going to forward this post and this blog to people you care about. (Just once is fine. You don’t have to do it every day.) This will raise awareness about breast cancer without making anyone feel like a jerk and without making it some kind of cute game.
Because it isn’t.