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“I wish I had testicular cancer.” Pancreatic Cancer Action’s Envy Ad

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,

Mike Craycraft

 

 

 

 

8 Responses to ““I wish I had testicular cancer.” Pancreatic Cancer Action’s Envy Ad”

  • Kelly:

    I remember the day my brother was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The doctor said, “If you could choose a cancer, testicular cancer would be the best choice”. My brother lost his battle in less then a year after that.

  • I agree Mike, this ad is not in good taste, but there is a sneaking admiration for having the balls to do it and they are getting talked about. Desperation stakes, at a guess.

    The envy may also be directed towards the profile both TC and BC share in the media, which PC and many other cancers don’t have.

    They miss the point and the reason why TC and BC share such a high profile.
    The point being that both TC and BC are being talked about in schools within the sexual health context as a starter for education about Cancer.
    PC could not be placed in that subject area.

    As a result of the above, all other cancers have had their profile increased in the last 20 years.

    There’s some irony that’s for sure.

    cheers

    Nick

  • Mary:

    I lost a friend to breast cancer. Just a month ago I lost a Grandson to testicular cancer. The treatments and surgeries and nausea and… well, you know. I wouldn’t wish either on anyone. The ad made me feel sick and then angry and then I cried. It is in very bad taste. I personally felt worse than a slap in the face.

  • Mike:

    Mary,

    I can certainly understand your feelings and I am sorry to hear about the loss of your friend and your grandson. I agree that it is much more than a slap in the face and I wish they had the understanding of how different people would be affected by their message. I guess their concern was to create controversy for their message at the expense of those at the other end that they were pointing out as being so much more fortunate.

  • Mike:

    Hi Nick,

    I definitely see your points and yes, it took a lot of balls to put the campaign out there and I am sure they took a calculated risk knowing the edge of the campaign would draw more attention. However, is the attention on the survival rate for pancreatic cancer or on the taste of the ad? I guess what is next? Should lung cancer put out the same kind of ad as the survival rates for lung cancer are not much better, they are desperately underfunded as well and face the stigma of “people causing their own cancer” due to smoking even though the data shows that there is a great increase in lung cancer in never-smokers.

    I guess there is a positive in it for breast and testicular cancer as most reactions are towards how could you talk about those cancers, instead of about pancreatic cancer, and that raises awareness for breast and testicular cancer. They certainly made big points but were they the points they were intending to make or is the edge of the campaign more distracting?

    I have always been for how can we work with other cancer organizations to improve care over all. Several years ago we supported a testicular and ovarian co-campaign and are working on a multi-cancer awareness program for schools for the top cancers that affect adolescent and young adults (AYAs) instead of just focusing on testicular cancer. This program is also focusing on increasing access to and quality of care for the AYA population. I guess my last question is did this ad help Pancreatic Cancer Action’s ability to work with other cancer organizations to help further their cause or rather alienate them?

  • Mike:

    Hi Kelly,

    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your brother. I have a sister that I am very close to and I know how she was affected just by my diagnosis. I can’t imagine what it is like to lose a sibling. I am sincerely sorry for your loss. I guess it doesn’t really matter what the best choice is when the disease ends up taking the life of our loved ones.

  • Dawn:

    Hello Mike
    Thanks for your great website. It has been very helpful to me this past week and a half. That is the time during which my 49 year old husband was diagnosed with stage 2, had surgery, and we met with oncology to plan the 4 rounds of chemo he will start after having a port implanted next week. Wow. We, too, are medical professionals and are well aware of the statistics regarding types of cancers. However, as an individual human being who has lost family members after horrendous battles with breast cancer and now facing the amazing whiplash of the past 2 weeks and terrible fear of the next 4 months….. I can’t begin to express my rage when I saw that ad.

    I found it while searching on the internet for support sites for cancer caregivers.

    After seeing it I wrote on their facebook page. The worst part was the awful, nasty response written by the person who produced the ad and her assistants. They angrily defended their position that it was worth offending others because pancreatic cancer suffering IS worse and that clearly other people with cancer and their loved ones just don’t understand how much worse THEIR suffering is. They repeatedly stated that we obviously just misunderstood and that their cause required “shouting from the rooftops and upsetting people.” Well, as a newly diagnosed and totally scared family she got what she wanted. And I think that is completely awful.

    Right now I would be willing to make a response ad but it would not be very nice. What a terrible, awful thing for me to find the very first night I began looking for help.

  • Mike:

    Hi Dawn,

    I am sorry to hear of your husband’s recent diagnosis. I hope that you all are doing as well as can be expected at this scary time. You mentioned 4 cycles of chemotherapy for stage II. Did they mention that it was 4 cycles of EP or 4 cycles of BEP? If it was 4 cycles of BEP and it was me, then I would look into things a bit as the 4th cycle of BEP may be a bit more than needed. I am not sure how much you have been able to look around after seeing this video right off the bat. I am sure it was a bit discouraging. However, the TCRC has a list of testis cancer experts that you may want to take a look at http://tcrc.acor.org/experts.html

    As for the ad, I guess I should have mentioned those that have recently been diagnosed because you are correct that it is an extremely scary time that is filled with unknowns. Seeing this kind of ad in a time like that has got to be painful. Again, Pancreatic Cancer Action appears to want to have their ads spread via controversy which I do believe is going to diminish their message overall. Also, I believe they are doing nothing more than alienating themselves when they should be reaching out to other cancer organizations for help.

    I just saw a blip and haven’t verified it but it appears that the same female pancreatic cancer patient is now stating, “I wish I had cervical cancer” instead of the “I wish I had breast cancer.” http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/sectors/charities/not-for-profit/public-sector/cancer-charity-shifts-to-education-message-after-criticism-of-insensitive-campaign/4009422.article

    Now that is really irritating as it was my take that these patients actually had these thoughts, which as individual human beings I can see them having these thoughts of “I wish I had…” but now it appears it may be nothing more than the ad agency putting these words into the “patients” mouths.

    I am sorry that you have had to face all of this now Dawn but I can tell you that there is an awesome cancer survivor community out there to support you so please don’t hesitate to use that support and try to forget about the ignorance of this insensitive charity and their campaign.

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