In 2010, the LIVESTRONG Foundation initiated the Comparte tu Historia project in Mexico with the goal of raising awareness of the global cancer burden and reducing the stigma associated with cancer. In its first 18 months, the campaign had significant results and changed perceptions about the disease. LIVESTRONG Foundation Global Fellow, Fernando Rodriguez, oversaw the communications and social media aspects of the project in Mexico. He and our International Program Manager, Rebekkah Schear, are highlighting some of campaign’s successes in the upcoming weeks.
By Fernando Rodriguez and Rebekkah Schear
Over the past several weeks, we have launched a series of blogs about the Foundation’s work in Mexico about fighting cancer stigma and the importance of sharing cancer stories to raise awareness. In this third blog of the series, we explore the concept of empowerment.
“You have cancer.” Three small words with a life altering impact. At the LIVESTRONG Assembly in Chicago last month, we experienced firsthand the power of those three words. During a twenty minute simulation with LIVESTRONG Leaders, about 65 of 140 participants were “diagnosed with cancer” and were asked to think about and discuss their reactions, feelings, fears, and needs. This exercise was incredibly powerful, evoking real tears and very personal dialogue among the participants. Challenging and emotional as it was, many people afterwards connected with the staff that facilitated to share their positive perceptions of the activity.
Just like the group of Leaders participating in the simulation, the question that Lupita, Tere, and José – survivors participating in the Foundation’s Comparte tu Historia campaign in Mexico,-asked themselves after diagnosis was: “What can I do now to move forward?” The question wasn’t: “Why me?” They found a great opportunity in being diagnosed with cancer. They, as many others, found a source of hope and inspiration in their experience to help as many other people as they could. Daily, they touch others’ lives with their own stories, sharing their experiences with friends, colleagues, strangers… in trainings, through social media, and in passing conversation. This openness in sharing the real challenges and triumphs of their unique cancer journeys is creating an expanding web among their communities, connecting those people recently diagnosed, supporters, health care workers, and other community members. And this support, friendship, and open dialogue empower every person in the web.
Empowerment is so important because it can help us maintain a sense of control of our lives at diagnosis, and during and after treatment.
A sense of empowerment can create confidence. It can provide strength, unity, and determination. Empowerment can result in people taking action. Through Comparte tu Historia, we have seen this happen: a person affected by cancer is interested in joining the Campaign. They hear LIVESTRONG’s messages of hope, living fully in the face of cancer, and building community. They feel the tinge of empowerment. It feels good, and fulfilling, and meaningful. They get involved. They give their time; share their story; raise awareness. They reach others; inspire them to get involved; and grow the movement.
This experience is not unique to Mexico or the LIVESTRONG Foundation. But empowerment to us- the LIVESTRONG community- is core to who we are and how we do what we do. Our sense of empowerment resides in our love of life, and our vocation to help; we see each other as family and this is how we LIVESTRONG. We are integrally connected as people affected by cancer and empowered to take action. We share a voice: and this strong, united voice feeds our collective strength. We are the LIVESTRONG Foundation, and together, we are transforming the way people experience cancer.