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‘Such lighthearted cancer appeals are inappropriate’

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Cancer is an illness that we all come into contact with, both professionally and personally. I think it would be true to say that we all dread having it ourselves.

The road from diagnosis to outcome is bleak and uncertain, although thankfully recovery is now more likely than before.

Most people know someone who has had to face up to cancer, so I’m sure that many of you, along with me, are admirers of Marie Curie cancer nurses.

People often say to me: ‘I couldn’t do your job’. Yet when it comes to caring for people with cancer who are dying, I would be trumped every time.

Those nurses do an amazing job in very difficult circumstances and I only have good things to say about them. So I was perturbed to see an advertisement for Marie Curie nurses with the headline: ‘You’ve got two weeks to live. We recommend a stiff drink.’

It says that having a small alcoholic beverage 30 minutes before eating can help to increase appetite in people nearing the end of life, and support during this time is what they offer. So please give generously.

You may think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill but it made me quite uneasy. I understand that they are using an example of the knowledge they have and the situations they can help with but I felt that it was trying to be too ‘light-hearted’ about dying of cancer – don’t worry, you may be about to die but it’s ok to down a few drinks in the company of friends and family and, best of all, some lovely nurses.

Please don’t think I’m putting these nurses down – far from it. My issue is with the people who thought this advertisement was a great idea. It trivialises that which is far from trivial. Where will it end? Will the next advertisement be: ‘You’ve got two weeks to live. We recommend rejoicing because for the first time in your life you can fit into a size 10’?

You may think this is taking it too far – and you’d be right, it is.

So why try to dumb down what Marie Curie nurses do and make light of the grave circumstances they do it in? People will donate to this cause because of its work, not because someone thought mentioning alcohol would make dying of cancer seem a lot more fun than the public have generally been led to believe.

Alison Gadsby is a mental health nurse in Cambridge

Want to read more of Alison Gadsby’s opinions? Click on the more by this author link at the top of the page.

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