Friday, February 3, 2012

Campaigns and Our Stories

Yesterday my friend posted this picture of a poster she saw in the dermatologist on her Facebook page. I cant find a link online (if anyone can, send it to me and I will trade it out), and this is a picture of the poster, so it is a little blurry.  It says "80 PERCENT OF SUN DAMAGE BEGINS BEFORE AGE 18"  and below "PROTECT YOUR KIDS WHILE THEY'RE STILL KIDS. SUNSCREEN, PROTECTIVE CLOTHING, AND COMMON SENSE CAN PREVENT PREMATURE AGING AND EVEN SKIN CANCER"  Since my personal feeling is that kids need to be taught about sun protection early, because it just needs to be a part of their lifestyle, I liked it.  

Well, one of her friends commented that she didn't feel the poster was effective and that it didn't make her want to apply any more sunscreen to her children than she already does.  While we can all agree that the effectiveness of a campaign also depends on the receptiveness of the audience, I did chose to focus on the "than I already do" part of her comment.  It made me think a little beyond "Ooh, I haven't seen that one. I like it"

It is hard to imagine an infant still in diapers with sun damage and premature aging.  It is much easier to take a group of 20-30 year olds who have varying degrees of age spots and wrinkles and be shocked that they are all the same age category.  Although I have age spots, with make up they blend with my freckles (I know they are there), I am often told that I look like I am closer to 30 or even 25, than 35.  I was even mistaken for a high school student last August, I think that is a far stretch. There are people in the 25-30 range that look much older than I do.    

When I was 20, a work friend revealed to me that her twin sister had come to town.  She was excited to see her, but even though they were identical twins, they looked very different now.  They both had fair skin and red hair.  My friend had never tanned and was dedicated to her skin care routine, her sister on the other hand, did not. She said her sister looked to be about 35-40, I was shocked and said she looked to be about 25 at most.  She thanked me and revealed that they were 30.  From that point forward, even though I tanned, I was very diligent with my skin care routine.  I think that would make for a very effective campaign. I also think that personally knowing someone who was an example, perfect DNA proof, had a big impact on me.

Back to this picture, and the comments associated with it.

Another friend commented that she had received all of her skin damage as a child, and years later she did have skin cancer on her face.  She asked if that was more effective.  My friend responded with the following, "You and my friend Tara are the most persuasive examples to me of why I should be more concerned about mine and my children's skin health. (Tara had melanoma on her arm and just had some precancerous cells removed from the scar from her first surgery.) This poster is effective enough for me, but it's not nearly as effective as knowing people I care deeply for have been effected by skin cancer themselves."  This is not the first time that she has shared with me that she is now more sun-aware and sun-safe as a result of knowing me and what I went through.  

I believe that campaigns like this are effective.  Some more so than others.  You see a poster like this and you think. You wonder why it is there, what the message is, and hopefully are receptive and curious enough to look further into it.  They plant a seed.  They open or at least crack the door.  They are a conversation starter, just as my friend proved by sharing it.

The important thing though is that we, the survivors, advocates, loved ones, warriors, friends and family, have to keep sharing.  We have to put a face to this disease.  The real disease, not the "got it cut out and fine now side"  We have to share so that our friends, family, and loved ones will know.  So they will share themselves, so that they will notice that odd poster on the doctors office wall and look closer and start their own conversation.  If we keep it to ourselves, that door that is cracked by the poster, wont be opened by knowing a familiar face.

Think about it.  When you see a ribbon of any color, how often do you think of a friend or loved one that was affected in some way by that disease?  Yes, you think of the cause, but you also think of that familiar face.  You can detach from that ribbon or poster, but if you know someone, then it becomes personal.

Unfortunately, we are the face of this beast, and we need to make sure people know about it on a personal, not detached level.

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