Breast Cancer Community Lacks Interest in Political Conversation

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Despite a month-long opportunity in which to post questions online to the candidates participating in Lance Armstrong’s Presidential Cancer Forum, only about 1,000 Americans chose to raise their virtual hands. Meanwhile, in less than a month’s time 8,000 well-wishers contacted “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts online to wish her well prior to her surgery for breast cancer. Why the huge disparity between these two cancer events, both of which had the potential to attract a ton of attention in the cancer community… and only one of which actually did? Here’s what I think:

    • Celebrities are more real than politicians; we relate to them better. Sure, celebs are “beautiful people,” but as People magazine constantly points out, they have their human foibles, too. Papparazzi catch them in unguarded moments… kissing, yelling, shopping, sometimes even getting into trouble with the law. They may be rich and famous, but they’re still one of us.

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    Politicians, on the other hand, are NEVER seen in anything but the most favorable spotlight. How often do we see the human being behind the mask? Never. Politicians do a great job coming across as polished robots, mouthing the carefully thought-out words of their advisors and never saying exactly what they believe because it wouldn’t be… well, politically correct. The absolute truth is dangerous territory when you’re trying to win votes. So who wants to listen to a litany of empty campaign promises, especially when experience teaches us there’s little chance of them coming true?

    • “Your vote can make a difference.” How many people actually believe that? Many people think, “Heck, even when the popular vote elects a President, he doesn’t become President. Since that’s the case, and my vote really doesn’t mean anything, why bother listening to candidates running for office, let alone vote?”

    Robin Roberts was out there and in our face, front and center on morning TV. You couldn’t avoid hearing about her cancer–it was all over the news. But how many in the cancer community even knew about the Armstrong forum? It didn’t receive a lot of face time in the national media, especially since more than half the candidates ditched the forum due to “scheduling conflicts.”

    Even if you heard about Armstrong's cancer forum, did you also know you could send in a question? Doubt it. In retrospect, sponsor MSNBC should have gotten a viral e-mail going, much like the e-mail for the mastectomy bill in Congress that seems to circle the online community endlessly. Anything that has a hope of engaging the American public has to first reach a tipping point, garner a critical mass of interest; for the cancer forum, it simply didn’t happen.

    • Finally, many, many cancer survivors never want to think about cancer again. They go to great lengths to avoid talking about it or hearing about it. They don’t want to remember the past, nor do they want to be reminded of what the future might bring. Cancer in the news? Unless it’s news of a cure, fuggedaboutit.

  • Read more about the lack of response to the LIVESTRONG Presidential Cancer Forum.

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    For more on Lance Armstrong's cancer forum, visit our special section:


    Livestrong Presidential Cancer Forum: Our Breast Cancer Community's Questions and Advice


Published On: August 28, 2007