Why we need World Lymphoma Awareness Day. Today is World Lymphoma Awareness Day. In a world awash with pink ribbons, we have managed to have one day set aside to focus on raising awareness of this cancer.
By: Alyssa Burkus Rolf
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
– Margaret Mead
Today is World Lymphoma Awareness Day. In a world awash with pink ribbons, we have managed to have one day set aside to focus on raising awareness of this cancer. A cancer with an increasing incidence in young people, and the highest incidence of cancer in young adults aged 18-39. A cancer that many have never heard of when they are diagnosed, or are unaware is a cancer. A cancer that can affect all ages, races, as well as both genders, with no known cause or screening test. A cancer with symptoms that can appear like the common cold, and a disease not on the radar of healthcare providers, resulting in a missed or late diagnosis. We need this day, and many others, to shout from the rooftops that people need to start paying attention to this disease.
When I was diagnosed ten years ago, a global day for lymphoma did not yet exist. Each time someone asked me to donate to pink causes, buy pink items, wear pink ribbons, I remember thinking “There are other cancers. I have lymphoma. My cancer should matter too!” But how do you say that to someone who likely has no idea what you’re talking about?
I used to wonder how “Worldwide Days” were started, and now, having been fortunate enough to be in the room as WLAD was created, I know that Margaret Mead’s quote is true. In a meeting with a group of passionate leaders from not-for-profit lymphoma organizations around the world, our day was brought to life. LFC is one of the founding members of the global Lymphoma Coalition, and I was there as calendars were pulled out, and we debated the merits of various dates. We finally settled on Sept 15, which now is in the middle of Blood Cancer Awareness month in North America. Today, WLAD is celebrated in over 40 countries around the world.
Finding ways to use this day to build awareness of lymphoma has been challenging at times, but the momentum continues to build. LFC developed the Know Your Nodes campaign (www.knowyournodes.ca), which includes a short quiz to help people identify the signs and symptoms of lymphoma. This campaign was picked up by the Lymphoma Coalition and expanded, now reaching around the world. We wear purple, ask our Facebook friends to post about it, ask our Twitter friends to tweet about it, generate awareness through events, posters and other activities, and slowly we continue to build awareness about this disease. The statistics show that awareness is increasing, and that means that many more will have heard of lymphoma when diagnosed with it than ever before.
For all the positive outcomes that occur with bringing awareness of lymphoma on this day, we also cannot forget the pain, anxiety, distress, and sometimes the loss, that comes from this disease. I lost two friends to lymphoma in the span of three months last year, and I continue to miss them both greatly. Lymphoma was the catalyst of our friendship, and also the reason our friendship was cut short unfairly. It was a tough reminder that this disease can dominate our lives for a while, but sometimes even robs us of our future.
For me, today is a day that helps me explain lymphoma to my two small boys, helps all of us at LFC educate those who might one day be diagnosed with this disease, and reminds me that the efforts of small groups everywhere truly can make a difference in the lives of lymphoma patients around the world.
Show us your Purple – help spread awareness. Here’s to one day to champion lymphoma awareness around the world! This is why we need World Lymphoma Awareness Day!
Please send your thoughts and own stories – I would love to hear from you. You can reach me via email at Christina(at)lymphoma(dot)ca, or follow me on Twitter here:@lymphomacanada