When a Cancer Billboard Is Offensive

When a Cancer Billboard Is Offensive

Update:  This billboard was taken down shortly after this post was widely shared as criticism mounted. Our collective voices matter! Still, the question remains. Why was it so poorly thought out and put up in the first place? Messaging matters.

Recently on a pleasant Saturday outing, Dear Hubby and I were driving along and talking rather mindlessly, probably about our tax return, since we were on our way to do tax stuff, when out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a certain billboard along the highway we were on. I did a double take and immediately started stewing.

At first I wasn’t even sure I had read the words on the billboard quite right. They seemed too outlandish, even for Cancerland.

This is what they said:

She never gave up. So her cancer did.

I could not believe there could be such an insensitive message on a huge billboard along a major roadway. And I couldn’t help but notice that the image chosen to pair with the message was one of a smiling young woman with lovely long hair no less.

Do you think it was a coincidence they didn’t put a man up there, or a bald woman who’s doing chemo?

I don’t.

At least they didn’t single out breast cancer. No, this was a generic cancer ad.

I was surprised Dear Hubby even noticed the billboard; after all, he was driving. But he did, and his immediate reaction was to look over at me and wait. Yeah, I guess he knows me pretty well. He may not read my blog, but he has been listening! He knew I’d be riled up.

He was right.

I turned to him and the first words out of my mouth were, “That is total bullshit. That kind of crap really pisses me off.”

“Well, I guess you can just will cancer away,” he said sarcastically.

“Yeah, I guess so.” I answered.

We proceeded along and finished our business with the tax guy. On our way home, Dear Hubby asked, “Well, do you want to pull over a take a picture of that sign?”

I guess he knows me even better than I thought.

“Sure!” I said.

He, of course, remembered exactly where the sign was. I did not. I can’t remember stuff like that…

We turned around and pulled over to the side of the road. It was a busy highway, so I didn’t get out of the car (hence my blurry photo), but just rolled down my window. And when I did, I became even more irate because then I could see who the sponsor of this billboard advertisement was. It was – Mayo Clinic Health Systems – my health care system!

More stewing by me, about which I’ll spare you the details.

Why was this whole deal so upsetting to me?

Because such a simplistic message is hurtful, yes, offensive to families like mine who have witnessed a loved one die from metastatic cancer. My mother did not die because she gave up or didn’t try hard enough. And her effort did not determine if her cancer would “give up” or not. Friends of mine who have died from cancer have not died because they gave up either.

People who die from cancer do not die because they give up or don’t try hard enough.

The kind of messaging on that billboard is very offensive to families like mine and I can’t even imagine how offensive it must be to those driving by in their cars who at that very moment are dealing with metastatic disease.

How would you like to hear a message like this under such circumstances?

In addition to being offensive, billboard messages such as this are potentially harmful because they are spewing false information, even though I know the intentions are good.

But the fact remains; such a message insinuates that somehow the cancer patient will survive if only she tries hard enough.

Or as Dear Hubby said, “If only the patient works hard enough at willing it away.”

Perhaps most importantly, billboards like this are irresponsible because of whose name is on there. Mayo Clinic is a world renowned facility. Mayo Clinic Health Systems is no small potatoes.

This is about integrity (it usually is), cancer truth telling and so much more.

Mayo Clinic Health Systems, you can do better than this. 

Do you think I overreacted?

Do you think such a billboard is encouraging or harmful?

Sign up for news and updates from Nancy’s Point!

When a #Cancer Ad Is Offensive #breastcancer #advertising #ads #advocacy #wordsmatter

160 thoughts to “When a Cancer Billboard Is Offensive”

  1. Why didn’t Mayo talk to the patients? They would find out quickly just how insensitive their billboard looks to real patients.
    And if I were looking for recommendations about treatment after a recent diagnosis, the first people I would ask are current or past patients.
    I hate the fight/think positive/give up metaphors and I’m glad you got the picture.
    Next time I see a cancer treatment ad on TV I’ll pay more attention after reading your blogpost.

    1. Annette, I don’t know if anyone did or did not talk to patients regarding this billboard ad, but I would think MCHS would know this might be offensive to some. Guess not. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I posted the link to this on the Mayo Clinic Health System FB page with the suggestion that they rethink this insulting, awful ad campaign…

    1. I hadn’t read the comments here before I, too, posted your amazing post on Mayo’s page. Just reading the billboard makes me feel stabby and violent. Thank you so much for speaking up and speaking so eloquently.

  3. Totally agree with you on this one. If it were about “will,” we wouldn’t go through the extreme treatments some of us have to face – and we wouldn’t die of cancer!

    I also get mad about people that imply – or outright declare – that we somehow caused our cancer by not being happy enough, by not eating right, or by not exercising enough! Would it were that easy to prevent cancer – no one would have it!

    Positive attitudes can help – help our outlooks and help us feel better – but they can’t beat the cancer or even prevent it!

    So sorry about the loss of your mother to metastatic cancer.

    1. Shari, The blame the patient thing does go on doesn’t it? I’m certainly not opposed to positive attitudes. I am not a negative person at all. But to attribute survival to how hard one tries or maintains a positive attitude is just wrong IMO. Thanks for the kind words.

  4. On my way to chemo one day I saw that MD Anderson in Orlando had a billboard featuring an outdoorsy-looking, healthy man who was quoted as saying that cancer is the best thing that ever happened to him in his life. I immediately complained and had a very long talk with a person in administration who was a part of this ad campaign. Within a few days the billboard was down. We do have a voice and we should use it and make sure we are heard.

    1. Stephanie, Oh my gosh! How wonderful that billboard was taken down… And yuk, what a horrible message to have plastered on a billboard. Good for you for complaining. I might have to do some investigating about who to talk to… You’ve rekindled my fire. Thank you for sharing that.

  5. Oh, Nancy. Again, hitting the nail right on the head. I am offended seeing the picture of the billboard too. When will these messed up messages about cancer stop?

  6. It’s harmful, hurtful and disgusting. It’s perpetuating the myth that we can cure our cancer. Yes, there are things you can do that help some people. There are also people that do everything and still, they die. That is why this ad is so offensive. It encourages that whole ‘battling’ ‘and ‘fighting’ language that is so annoying!

  7. Nancy:

    Could you please tweet the billboard photo with a message along the lines of: @MayoClinic Please take down insensitive, hurtful billboard. RT tweeters if you agree.

    Strength in numbers We can RT it to news stations, etc. etc.

    XOXO Amy

  8. You should be fuming…My dear husband died of metastatic colon cancer due to defective genetics, NOT due at all to an unhealthy lifestyle. He did not quit work until the last possible moment and kept announcing “I’m not dead yet”, a quote from a favorite Monty Python film. The last few months he lost a great deal of weight, turned grey-haired and was confined to a hospital bed unable to control his bowels or bladder. Yet he kept his upbeat attitude and welcomed visitors with lively conversation. I totally agree that we need to honor cancer patients in their valiant battles. I will always remember my husband’s words as he finally realized that his physical life was ending: “The human spirit has been given such a fragile vessel in which to burn.” (tears)

    1. Rose, I am very sorry your husband died from metastatic colon cancer. And yes, a fragile vessel it is. Many thanks for adding your voice here.

  9. I would think the Mayo Clinic Health Systems would know better. Perhaps they will apologize and take this billboard down immediately. Hopefully this same message isn’t on billboards all over the country, but it probably is.

    1. Lindsay, I would think so too and that’s why I was really shocked to see their name up there. Unbelievably insensitive. I do wonder if there are billboards like this all over the country. I suppose so. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Kate, Yes, it would be nice if attitude was enough wouldn’t it? Of course attitude matters, but… well, you know. Thanks for commenting and for tweeting too.

  10. When I first read this, I had to read it again, but with a different mind set. I take it to mean the patient never gave in to cancer, she fought back and is alive. The cancer gave up because she lived. It’s like she said “get thee Satan behind me.”

    1. Donna, Well in my opinion, that’s exactly the problem. The patient fought back and is alive… therefore the message is just fight hard enough and you’ll be fine. And just the idea that cancer “gives up” is flawed. It doesn’t quite work that way. Thanks for sharing your perspectives on things.

      1. I get why you’re upset, but I actually read it like Donna did. That the woman pictured (if she’s not stock) fought back against her cancer and is now doing well.

        Was it worded poorly? Yes.
        Should those facing cancer (whether they’re a patient, a caregiver, a cosurvivor) give up? No.

        I suspect the billboard is trying to showcase that with treatment at the medical facility, people like the woman pictured can get the help they need to fight and (hopefully) overcome the disease. I also expect that they were trying to anthropomorphize/personify cancer as a foe that can be defeated or give up.

        The issue here is a lack of clear message, which is probably part of what is so upsetting. Could you suggest to them (rather than just raking them over the coals) that they do some focus groups to see if the message is clear before investing HUGE money into a billboard? Maybe, with a little understanding, something amazing can come from this.

        1. Deb, It is all about perspective, but from mine, this billboard was offensive and I had to let them know. If that was raking them over the coals, so be it. I was in contact with MCHS and the sign was changed out, quite promptly I might add, so I do appreciate that and give them credit for not only listening, but making the change. I hope they do use some focus groups in the future. I don’t know if they did with this campaign or not. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.

  11. Nancy,
    I don’t think you overreacted. I believe this ad is more harmful than encouraging, especially to those who are facing metastatic disease or a recurrence and the people who care about them. I am all for a positive approach to life, and I believe it can help us get through difficult days, like the worst chemo days and the first post-surgery days. But to imply that is all it takes to fend off cancer is a disservice and misleading. I appreciate your husband’s take on it too. Thanks for another insightful post!

    1. Lisa, I’m so glad you shared your insights on this one. Your opinion means a lot to me. You always do try to take a positive approach to life and as you said, this can help us get through difficult days. I agree. But to imply this determines whether or not cancer “gives up”, is harmful. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I had a similar incident watching a game show with my mother. The host encouraged all the cancer patients watching during chemo to be positive, fight hard, blah blah, the usual BS. I immediately started to growl and my mother admonished me, saying some patients need that kind of pep talk (she does not agree with my attitude toward cancer and the rah rah, which is a challenge for us). I muttered something about how the mets patients watching probably did not agree. It still amazes me just how much people don’t get it.
    So no, of course I do not see this as an over-reaction. We need to keep reacting on this as much as possible, until people understand that cancer still has potential to kill.

    1. Cancer Curmudgeon, Isn’t it interesting that your mother feels that way? I wonder if it helps her better cope with your cancer diagnosis. Thanks for sharing your example.

  13. This reminds me of “losing the fight” – geez, it’s like nails on the chalk board. You reaction is exactly what mine would have been as well. Kudos to your husband for thinking of snapping the photograph. Of course, everyone can choose their own language, and pick their own metaphors . . .but I think we do lean pretty hard into “overcoming” and “beating” and “winning” against life.

    There is a man I admire who died from cancer. After treatment didn’t take, he realized that his time was limited and a cure wasn’t coming for his situation. So, he focused on living and loving so hard, right till the very end. Just before he passed away, he said that he wished everyone could feel so content when they finally move on. That to me is the most inspirational of experiences.

    He is an inspiration to me and I’ll never forget what a rich life he led, and the generosity of his heart. ~Catherine

    1. Catherine, You are right on there – society does lean pretty hard into the overcoming, beating and winning mentality. And your words, “like nails on the chalkboard”, boy that’s a perfect description. I’m really sorry about your friend. Yes, what an inspiration he is for you and I’m sure for many others as well. And he made a choice for himself that had nothing to do with giving up. Thanks for sharing about him here.

  14. I hate it when these things happen that make you feel guilty about causing ones own cancer or the after effects… No one “gives up” but some people die and that is the way of cancer… No matter what people do they can still die.. Being positive makes little difference in the big picture.. Yes like everyone else they should take it down… Will go to their FB page and give my opinion!!!

    1. Helen, Positive thinking matters, just not in determining survival. It comes down to tumor biology, treatment access and success, and sometimes pure luck. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here on FB too.

  15. Nancy, this is beyond offensive. I really hope we can influence Mayo. Thank you for your incisive comments, as always.

    1. Eileen, Good to know you and I are on the same page. I’m sorry about your father. I didn’t realize he died from cancer. Yes, luck, or the lack of it, does come into play. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Well they can’t say they cured anyone, they deny killing anyone “by treating” (over treating that is) and although they see us on a daily unless you have had cancer or been very close to someone and got a ringside seat to see this you JUST DON’T REALLY KNOW this friggin’ disease and what it truly does to us warriors. I have a marketing company and let me tell you how many businesses don’t get it with their own clients. These are marketing and PR people and they are back in offices or it is an Ad Agency that is clueless. Betcha the Onc Nurses wouldn’t have approved this one. Out of touch with patients and patient care for sure!

    1. Darlene, Good points you make there. Your perspectives are coming from a person with a marketing company, so I appreciate that. I bet the oncology nurses wouldn’t have approved of this billboard ad either. Thanks for adding to this discussion.

  17. dear Nancy,

    you have not over reacted, and I am glad you posted about this awful, insensitive sign. I think of all the thousands of people who drive down that highway – maybe someone who is on their way to see a loved one who is dying in Hospice care, maybe someone going to the funeral home to make final arrangements in the aftermath of the death of a spouse from cancer, maybe a child whose just lost a parent from cancer (the possible scenarios of pain and anger are endless) – what are they to feel/think when they read that message? clearly, whoever came up with the words and the image on that billboard is much more concerned about the Mayo System attracting business than they are about people who are cancer patients or their loved ones. absolutely hideous. I hope both the ad agency and Mayo will do a big mea culpa and take the damned billboard down, post haste.

    I am so sorry you had to endure the pain of seeing it and having to be upset and angry, thinking of all your Mom had to endure plus what you are going through on top of it. your Mom would be very proud of you for always giving voice to the truth of the realities of having cancer.

    much love and light,

    Karen xoxo

    1. Karen, I have been wondering how people like the ones you mentioned might be feeling as they drive by. I just don’t think it’s a well-thought out message at all. And the funny thing is, a little further down the road there was another billboard sponsored by a different health organization that was offering a message of hope in a very different way and that one was not offensive at all. Thanks for sharing your insights. Much appreciated.

  18. Nope, don’t think you overreacted at all. My immediate reaction was how incredibly offensive the statement is to every one who has died from this disease and their families who have lost a loved one. Bad, bad advertising Mayo.

  19. Can’t believe this was Mayo!

    I hate it when people make it sound like we have the power to defeat cancer ourselves. What false arrogance to believe “I beat it!” What a burden to lay on those who do not!

    In my support group is a woman who had bone mets 9 years ago with no recurrence. She gives credit to her “positive” (annoying) attitude. She is no more positive, no better, that the woman who progressed from bone mets to lung mets, and last week entered hospice because of brain mets.

    Consider it in the hands of God, or if not a believer, fate. But, do not blame the victim or credit the survivor as if defeat or victory were in their control.

  20. I don’t think you overreacted and I think these kinds of ads are very harmful. They foster the myth that we have all the answers, all the tools, and that if someone “loses their battle” it’s because they somehow didn’t try hard enough.

    1. Lisa, It’s terribly disappointing when a major health organization jumps onto the “positive thinking will take care of things bandwagon” too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  21. Unless I’m missing part of the text in the billboard…does it say more than the text you’ve listed? Because I’m reading it as “her cancer gave up” as in “she doesn’t have cancer anymore and is alive and healthy”. The woman on the billboard looks healthy, like she doesn’t have cancer anymore. She never gave up so the cancer had to.

    1. Megan, It does not say anything else. The idea that cancer “gives up” because of a patient’s effort is what’s flawed IMO. It’s a skewed, misleading, poorly thought-out and insensitive message on that billboard. How the woman looks is mostly irrelevant.

  22. Yes, I think you over-reacted. Positive thinking may not will your cancer away. But it will help you to be a happier person. My point is this: some of us make it to live another day in our cancer journey, and some of us don’t. In the end, we all are going to die. So while we are here, why not be happy and positive for the time that we are here and be happy and positive for the blessings in the lives of others? I personally don’t want to be around negative people, so I try to spread my positivity in their direction, hoping they’ll catch it. Yes, I had cancer. And whether or not it comes back, I am happy for the time that I have had, and for the time that I have now. I’m not going to spend my time being upset at someone else who has been blessed to come through her cancer journey.

    1. Mary, I am not saying a person shouldn’t try to be positive. That’s not my point in this post at all. My point is that your positive attitude will not ultimately determine your survival, which is what this billboard implies. I do firmly believe there is pressure felt by many cancer patients to fake a positive attitude and this can be potentially harmful, but that’s a different issue/post. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    1. Kimberly, I agree that much of the cancer language is problematic, hurtful and perhaps potentially harmful to some. Thanks for sharing your link.

  23. Hi Nancy. I can see exactly how this happened. Most people in hospital communications or marketing departments are younger women, with limited personal experience with cancer. Their goal is to make an ad that will appeal to newly diagnosed patients, the majority of whom will also have limited cancer experience. You, and others that picked up on the tone-deaf message, are the experts – you are the survivors and families and caregivers of survivors… Too bad their marketing team did not consult with their experts – their patients, survivors, and families.

    1. Lynne, Thanks for those insights. I give young people, whether they’re in marketing departments or not, more credit, or I would sure like to. Even with limited “cancer experience”, I think compassion/common sense isn’t too much to ask for from anyone, especially from anyone employed in the healthcare business. You’re right about the goal of such campaigns. They are selling something after all. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  24. Grrrr this is what I call “the prison of positive thinking” I lost my cheerful, positive, spiritual, healthy living mom to metastatic breast cancer. These kind of messages made her feel like she failed herself and her family by getting sicker. Twenty-three years after my mom’s death, this makes my blood boil.

    1. Eileen, I hear you growling… I understand completely. I’m sorry your mother died from mbc and it surely wasn’t because she didn’t try hard enough or because she gave up. This is precisely why the billboard is offensive. Thank you for sharing about your mom. xx

  25. My mother and I had breast cancer at the same time. She died. I recovered. The difference between us was the kinds of cancers we had, not the effort we put into ridding ourselves of it. Slogans like this make me want to weep. Thanks, Mayo.

    1. Vanessa, Exactly. Perfectly said. Thank you. And I’m sorry that your mother died and for your past and present tears. Hope you’re doing well.

  26. You didn’t over-react. Heavens no. We both know too many who are fighting for their lives with the newest drugs or procedures available. It’s not attitude but type of cancer that dictates survival. You keep voicing your opinion!

  27. Absolutely no overreaction involved: as someone living with this blasted disease, I get practically homicidal when I see TV ads telling cancer to “buzz off” or that “we’re coming to get you cancer!”

    I’m trying to make peace with mine and live as long as possible with it together, as quietly as possible, as many people are forced to do.

    I think this whole “Battle” rhetoric is seriously harmful and offensive at the least – nor does it help non-sufferers understand what we’re going through!

    1. Xena Worrier-Princess, I agree with you about the battle rhetoric being potentially harmful. I realize wording is sometimes tricky, but still… when you’re a big-name player such as MCHS, my expectations are a bit higher. I stand by my words in the post. Thank you for taking time to comment.

  28. Nancy, you absolutely did not overreact. I loved your blog and am so curious how Mayo Clinic is going to react. I was also compelled to write about this and I hope you don’t mind that I linked my blog to yours. Thank you so much for bringing this issue to people’s attention so that when they get upset, they know they’re not alone! All the best, Tara

  29. Nancy,

    You are absolutely spot-on with this great post. You are right and the Mayo is WRONG. This billboard is insensitive and pretty directly says one can will cancer away if they really try hard enough. Yet, the truth is that so many try so hard and they die anyway.

    What we are seeing here is a disturbing trend: hospitals/medical facilities using cancer to bring in big business. It’s absolutely true. I’ve seen countless signs and advertisements (and heard radio ads) that strongly imply that one can beat cancer if they use these hospitals in the ad. It makes me sick.

    Thank you for this post.

    1. Beth, I guess I’m going to start paying closer attention to this kind of advertising. It’s nearly impossible to not see this particular billboard if you’re driving by. I keep thinking about all the people driving by it every day who have lost loved ones to metastatic cancer of any kind… Poorly thought-out words on the sign. Thanks for your passionate comment.

  30. I am a cancer survivor. I had stage 3 melanoma 10 years ago. I’d like to think I beat it up by not giving in but I know I didn’t. I was lucky. I almost died thanks to the treatments. I was not really offended but thought oh well another idiot comment. I had my now ex walk out & move in with his GF during this period & they were waiting for me to die!! As we all know – life is too short to waste time on a stupid comment. Yes they should know better but….. I choose to live my life as full as I can & let the others fight no win situations.

    1. Kathy, It sounds like you’ve been through a lot. I’m sorry. Life is short and one does need to pick and choose where you wish to put your time and efforts. I just couldn’t keep quiet about this billboard. I almost felt obligated to write this post – for my mom, my friends and all the others who have tried their hardest to live, but did not.

  31. Not sure about offensive…that’s up to viewer to decide…but I agree 100% with you. My children lost their mother to stage IV…and she never gave up. Neither side “won,”…the loss was total.

    I hate this kind of BS too. And yes…it DOES give a false sense that the person with cancer can fight hard enough to “win.” It’s SO much pressure on them.

    1. Andy, Well, for this viewer it was offensive. I’m sorry you have experienced such a devastating loss yourself. Your opinion matters a great deal here, so thanks so much for sharing.

  32. Nancy, this is for all those who think positivity fights cancer. My affectionate joyful grandmother died of breast cancer shortly after her diagnosis. Another family member, just slightly younger, whom we shall refer to here as “Auntie Negative Nellie,” not only survived breast cancer, but lived to 96.

  33. The I’m reading is that since “she” didn’t give up, the cancer did and she beat it and is not ill anymore. I am an optimist, but that’s how I see it. She is happy because she didn’t give up and the cancer did and left her body.

    1. Debbie, what you’re saying is exactly what is wrong with this ad: You think the cancer left her body because she didn’t give up.

      The cancer left her body because she had a cancer that was curable; it would equally have left her body if she HAD given up.

      All the optimism and positivity in the world won’t make a difference.

      The implication of this ad is that it’s up to you and your ‘fighting spirit’ to rid yourself of cancer or not, which is offensive in the extreme!

    2. Debbie, The message on the billboard isn’t really about the woman depicted, at least it wasn’t for me. It’s about all the others who didn’t make it. What about their efforts? That’s why it was offensive to me. Plus, the whole concept of cancer “giving up” seems inappropriate. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  34. This is offensive to the memories of all those who have died of cancer as it implies it was somehow their fault for not having the right attitude or not trying hard enough. I am a 2 year Stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer survivor and frequently hear this sort of comment. If cancer could be cured by having the right attitude it would be treatable as a mental health condition (with meds, counselling etc) not a physical illness.

    1. Sara, I agree completely. I think there is another issue in here – that of cancer language. Words matter. Words on billboards matter. They just do. Thanks for sharing. Hope you’re doing alright.

  35. Interesting comments. At first glance–I saw that as a bit more of patient empowerment that defeated cancer. Patients do have choices–including clinical trials–that may not be conventional or typical. So, I guess that, from a marketing perspective, it’s driving patient engagement to push on.

    Is that wrong? Insensitive? Perhaps.

    I think that a key take-away is that concepts like this that come out of advertising agencies my not truly understand this from a PATIENTS point of view. And there lies the rub…

    Great conversation…and thanks Nancy for the post!


    1. John, Point well taken. However, the bottom line is that MCHS approved this ad. Their name is on there. Again, words matter and when you’re a major player in healthcare they matter even more. Thank you for being part of this conversation. All the comments are quite interesting.

  36. I get the message. It conjures that “let’s fight this” attitude we all feel towards breast cancer – or any cancer for that matter. But it also hits home for me, as a step-mom to two (now adult) children who lost their mom to breast cancer. She never gave up. In fact she denied that cancer was winning and in doing so, left her husband and kids totally unprepared to lose her. I think this is not Mayo’s best campaign – and they should retract it. They can do better.

  37. Nancy, you did not overreact to this message. I just hope my institution, Stanford, doesn’t get on the bandwagon and put up a billboard like that. I would be the first to say they needed to fire their ad campaign manager.

  38. Nancy,
    I received a link to this post from my boss who asked that we please take time to read your post and think about perspectives as we concept projects.
    I’m a graphic designer at a healthcare system (not Mayo) and I put out pieces everyday that are meant to help, educate, and inform. I try my hardest to take each piece or campaign to heart as I work on it. I try to research and get feedback from staff, patients, and/or their families prior to launch or placement (if I can reach out to them). I believe many people in the industry try. But, sometimes we fail. Sometimes we fail and don’t even know it. That’s why your voice is so important. We need to know when and why something doesn’t work. Would a word make a difference, a photo, or color? While we can’t please everyone with every message, we can be more sensitive or attempt a different direction.
    Please know that you’re opinion matters and I am listening. Many people in our industry are listening. So, thank you.

    1. T. Anderson, I realize you have a difficult job to do and I also realize that it’s often next to impossible to please everyone all the time. However, sensitivity to all cancer patients in such ads, even to those no longer living, perhaps especially to those, should always be a top priority. They deserve nothing less. Thank you for reading and taking time to comment too. It’s gratifying to know others are listening. Thank you.

  39. I think that folks who haven’t been through cancer have no idea at all what it’s like. That’s how you end up with strange ad campaigns like this one. If they had asked survivors or patients, they would have received better ideas, but it seems that they didn’t do that. Good for you for fighting the good fight to get this ad removed!

    1. Adena, I don’t know what MCHS did or did not do as far as consultations, but I am pleased they’ve decided to remove this billboard. It’s a good step. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  40. Somewhat OT but the ads for ( I think it is Neulasta / Procrit or something similar) which state “I’m ready for my chemotherapy” and feature what appears to be a perfectly healthy man/woman, really gets my goat.
    Even more ironic is that the ad appears in CURE magazine a publication I think highly of .
    My beef is with what I believe to be the pretty picture that pharma thinks it needs to paint to sell these treatments. My reality and the reality of so many of my fellow cancer warriors was not one of eagerness and excited anticipation to be be dosed with an innocuous drug to keep my counts up but one of fear and loathing based on the pain filled days I experienced both during and for many years after taking this drug.
    Thank Nancy for giving us a voice.

    1. Marcia, Thanks for sharing that example – the kind of ad you mention can be pretty annoying. Yes, reality can be quite different… advertising of any kind often steers pretty far from reality I guess. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment.

  41. So sorry about the loss of your Mom and I can certainly understand your outrage. I lost my Dad to cancer as well.
    While I completely respect those who say that the mind/body/spirit connection does nothing for cancer or that cancer cannot be prevented, I disagree. It can’t be prevented 100% of the time, but there are lifestyles that prevent cancer. My feeling is that we all have our own beliefs about lots of things, religion, politics…and health. My belief about illness and disease is my own and I completely respect those who disagree with me. I see political billboards all the time that I don’t agree with, but I can respect their point of view and in the end the billboard really doesn’t change anything but my blood pressure…if I let it.
    As far as this ad….I’m not sure what the ad was supposed to tell us….maybe “don’t give up looking for a place to spend your money on cancer treatments….” or “if you’re not happy with your current doctor or facility, don’t give up looking for for one like us” or something to that effect. (I can only assume they were trying to get your money somehow and not trying to tell you something about treatment in general, but I don’t know for sure.)

    Thanks for writing this Nancy! It obviously is a topic for discussion that many have strong feelings about!

    1. Susan, Of course there is a mind/body connection. I don’t disagree with that at all. However, I do not believe a person can ever just will away a disease and that was the message I felt was coming through in this billboard in a potentially harmful, and definitely hurtful way. You’re right of course, we all have our own opinions and beliefs. I respect the viewpoints of others too. When I saw this particular billboard, it offended me and so I wrote about it because my blog is my space to do that. I think you might be right on about what the real intent of this ad was. I expect better from a major player such as MCHS. I just do. I’m sorry your dad died from cancer. Thank you for reading and sharing your perspectives.

  42. You didn’t overreact at all. There’s a huge stigma in this nation that disease is somehow *your fault* and if you try hard enough you’ll get over it (I personally do not have cancer, but I have chronic disease and get this a lot, usually from well-meaning people). It’s important to point this often unseen bias out, and thank you so much for doing it.

    1. Tasha, Thank you for reading and sharing that. I agree with you about the stigma and about that blame game that does sometimes go on. Such things can be quite hurtful and yes, even harmful. I’m sorry if this has happened in your case. Thanks again.

  43. I would like for you to comment on hospice care. I work for a hospice agency and we confront the “don’t give up” idea all the time. Of course, we don’t view hospice care a giving up, but so many do. I, as a lot of others, have lost family and friends to cancer and none of them stopped fighting.
    Messages such as this can be harmful in many ways; as you have pointed out. Thank you

    1. Shawn, Hospice care enters into another whole area of discussion. When it’s time, hospice care can be a wonderful option to have for a terminal patient and her loved ones. It’s not a question of giving up, rather it’s about dignity, respect and honoring a family’s wishes when they and the patient’s doctors determine it’s time to stop curative care and focus on comfort and those other things I mentioned. It’s a wonderful thing that you work at such an agency. You are providing a much needed kind of specialized care.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *