Is Pancreatic Cancer Action’s new Envy campaign going to far?
Is calling out other cancers appropriate?
A response from Testicular Cancer Society founder Mike Craycraft
A new video for the Pancreatic Cancer Action’s Envy campaign was just released. The 85 second video features two pancreatic cancer patients in which the male patient states, “I wish I had testicular cancer” and the female patient states, “I wish I had breast cancer.”
Controversy surrounding the Envy ad is starting to mount but is it really offensive?
Pancreatic Cancer Action has attempted to make a hard-hitting campaign to raise awareness to the dismal, unchanging survival rates and the underfunding for pancreatic cancer. In doing so, they decided to feature two pancreatic cancer patients wishing they had testicular cancer or breast cancer.
These patient’s wishes appear as if they are an attack on testicular cancer and breast cancer and I certainly feel that comparing cancers as if we are kids comparing scars on a playground is not the correct approach for cancer advocacy overall. I also do not believe that it would be appropriate for the Testicular Cancer Society to create a motivational video for testicular cancer fighters that has the tagline, “Be glad you don’t have pancreatic cancer.”
I founded the Testicular Cancer Society not to promote testicular cancer over any other cancers but rather to curate existing resources and fill the gaps in support that were not available specifically for testicular cancer. With testicular cancer being primarily a young man’s disease, although it can occur at any age, we also advocate for changes in the adolescent and young adult cancer continuum but not at the expense of pediatric or older adult oncology.
Pancreatic Cancer Action has issued a statement and made comments that they are not attempting to start a battle with other cancers and I do believe them. Do I feel that a pancreatic cancer patient wishing he had testicular cancer is a slap in the face to guys and their loved ones that have faced testicular cancer? Perhaps a little.
No matter what the survival rate, treatment regimen or cancer type, there is one thing that all cancer patients face and that is the sudden raw emotions and fears that crash down when a doctor tells you for the first time, “You have cancer.” The experience of facing our own mortality is another thing that we share and that serves as a bond across the spectrum of cancer.
However, the Envy ad is not saying that testicular cancer is easy and that patients do not face emotional and physical challenges with their diagnosis. It is not telling lies or spreading smears about the disease. What it is bringing attention to is that testicular cancer has a much higher survival rate. Even with a high survival rate there are guys and their families that are not on the fortunate side of those statistics and for families that have lost a loved one to testicular cancer then I do see this as kind of a slap in the face.
Could Pancreatic Cancer Action have gotten their point across without mentioning. “I wish I had testicular cancer?” Absolutely. Their video was spot on in their messaging and the controversial statements added little to the emotion of addressing their low survival rates. However, the statements are going to fuel their message in spreading as some good old controversy will certainly add to the spreading of any message.
I can’t fault Pancreatic Cancer Action on their campaign although I do hope that they sympathetically address and apologize to anyone that they may have offended. I do believe they could have avoided any offense by trying a different tactic besides controversy to spread their message.
Maybe I am wrong, maybe controversy is a good approach. Testicular cancer affects white males at a much higher rate than black males yet the mortality rate for black males is approximately 1.6 times higher than that for white males. You tell me, should we create an ad featuring a black male saying, “I wish I was white” or a white male saying, “I wish I was black” in order to get our statistical points across? I believe in doing so might not be wrong but somewhat inappropriate to infer that the grass is greener on the other side, especially since we really can’t put ourselves in the shoes of those we are pointing out.
On a personal note, I can empathize with the pancreatic cancer patients in the ad and with Ali Stunt. I never wanted or asked to be diagnosed with cancer. While I do believe there are many positives that can be gained after a diagnosis, such as enlightenment, I wish there were better ways to receive these positives than to have them so closely tied to a cancer diagnosis. I am not friends with cancer nor do I wish cancer upon anyone.
However, when I was diagnosed I was kind of glad it was me. Not to sound like a martyr, but as a health care professional I knew that statistically someone had to get it. I was single, with no kids and figured that it was easier for me to face things than it would be for someone with a wife and kids to worry about as well. I have also stated numerous times that if I had to pick a cancer to be diagnosed with that I would pick testicular cancer, because of how treatable it is, so maybe my personal emotions lead to my impression of the ad.
I do look forward to the day that there are no cancers or even to the day that cancers are considered a chronic disease because they are no longer killers.
Thanks for Reading,