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The bandwagon to save a single person

There's a teenage girl with cancer at a local high school. Specifically, she's the youngest person to ever have stage 4 colon cancer. Friends and family set up a fundraiser, just like many families of someone with cancer do, selling t-shirts to support her. Because of her unique diagnosis, it got local news coverage, which led to wider news coverage, visit from a pro football player who grew up here, a 5k run organized just to raise money for her, the governor visited this week and included a portion of his speech devoted to her.

Anywhere you go in town, you see the t-shirts. Hair salons are offering both pink and purple hair extensions this month - pink for breast cancer awareness, purple for this girl - purple seems more popular. Thousands of people are involved now, many who don't even know her.

And to get this clear before someone goes into bitch mode - I think it's awesome that this girl is getting so much support and that her family has so many people to rely on. That said, she is not the only person in town with cancer. She is not the only child in town with cancer. Any other family who attempted such a wide scale fundraiser for their own child at this point would be viewed as either trying to steal her thunder, or simply ignored because people already did something to make them feel good about themselves. I have to wonder what it's like for these other families who turn on the news at 5am while they're getting ready to drive the 3 hours for yet another chemo treatment, and they see another heartwarming story about the entire city doing everything they can for one child (updates on the fundraising events are featured regularly).

This isn't the first time it's happened - in other cities, at other times, communities have rallied around a single family above all others, even if they weren't unique in a situation. When it does happen, does the good for the one family outweigh the impact on other families who are going through the same thing without the same support, possibly with less support than they would normally have received?

Answer Question

Asked by NotPanicking at 8:07 AM on Oct. 4, 2013 in Politics & Current Events

Level 51 (421,174 Credits)
Answers (17)
  • I can see your point, to a point. No, she's not the only person with cancer, not the only person in that town even. But I don't know that it's fair to make her, her family or those who choose to support/help her out to be a bad guy because they don't help everyone with cancer. Aside from the fact that many of those people might be choosing to help because they know her or her family, many families prefer to keep the news of a cancer diagnosis private - and if they chose to do that, then it's not fair for them to be upset that she gets more support. They could get more support if they shared their diagnosis with others.

    And as far as being seen as stealing her thunder - I don't think most people would be heartless enough to think that. I think most people might find themselves unable to do much to help, but would still be sympathetic.

    Answer by wendythewriter at 8:18 AM on Oct. 4, 2013

  • In Ga. I follow this little boy named Tripp who was three and a tree branch fell on him while he was playing outside at his daycare. What I love about the site his parents created was they also post links and mention other children in similar situations. Their FB page is lovely. I normally do not visit those types of places because there are so many stories, all deserving of the awareness and goodness people can offer them, but are just too much when you see just how many people are in need of our time and thoughts. My feeling is we can only do so much. It's a bit like sympathy fatigue for me. I have to carefully select situations to champion and support. I wish I could everyone but no one could. In that situation I could only hope that the person and her family receiving so much positive love and support would also note there are many others who live with cancer who need our support as well.

    Answer by Anonymous at 8:21 AM on Oct. 4, 2013

  • hat it's fair to make her, her family or those who choose to support/help her out to be a bad guy

    I don't make her the bad guy - I do question the mass news coverage it's getting, and how eager people are to be seen as a part of it. I can find you local news stories for one fundraiser or another for her every week - everything from things like the 5k to corporate sponsored events (a local grocery store, Ford and Harley Davidson, so far). Maybe it's harder to explain if you don't see it in full, but basically, fundraising for this girl has evolved into an advertised business.

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 8:22 AM on Oct. 4, 2013

  • @Wendythewriter, lots of people do get resentful and think like that. I worked in hospice for many years as a nurse and families would get resentful and jealous of other families who had more support or attention. It happens all the time. They are not bad or petty people. Stress does horrible things at those time.

    Answer by Anonymous at 8:23 AM on Oct. 4, 2013

  • I don't make her the bad guy

    I didn't mean you specifically, sorry. I was referring more to the families that might be going through the same thing and feeling resentful.

    And anon, I wasn't talking about people in the same situation in re: stealing her thunder. I meant the community at large.

    I probably should have waited until I was more awake to answer this, since I left out major things in my answer. lol

    Answer by wendythewriter at 8:34 AM on Oct. 4, 2013

  • I guess it is something that we as Americans love, something a bit different (like her being the youngest to have it)
    I have wondered as well, why some missing children and even adults can make the national news, and others are barely a blip on the screen.
    I am happy they are raising money, but imagine the child with say, kidney failure watching all of this unfold?

    Answer by 2kids2dogs2cats at 8:41 AM on Oct. 4, 2013

  • I am happy they are raising money, but imagine the child with say, kidney failure watching all of this unfold?

    That's the reaction I have to it anymore. DS's best friend is in remission (insert happy dance here). His parents went through hell, just as the parents of any child with cancer does. I can only imagine what it would've been like if he was going through it this year instead of 3 years ago.

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 8:49 AM on Oct. 4, 2013

  • I agree NP, I have often questioned why once cause has national attention ( Breast cancer, Diabetes, etc) yet the other illnesses out there that are just as bad, because they are cancer or life threatening do not get national monthly attention worldwide.

    Childhood disease should take the forefront in my opinion but not ONE particular child. ALL children!

    As I battled my cancer and would even go into the oncology office to see awareness for BC but no others being made important it made me feel like because my boobs were not affected, I was less important than the BC patients.

    I refuse to support one person ever, my grandbaby has a non cureable condition, I support the foundations- I do not fundraise for HER, I do it for her condition! If we collect for any reason it goes to research.
    Yes, I am certain that others feel like they are less than those publicized!

    Answer by luvmygrandgirl at 9:32 AM on Oct. 4, 2013

  • The awareness it brings is positive, but I agree that the other individuals suffering from similar illnesses seem to be pushed to the side.

    I agree with luv, donating to the foundations where it helps more people than just one is usually the best bet.

    Answer by QuinnMae at 9:53 AM on Oct. 4, 2013

  • It seems to me that many might be drawn to this particular child and her cause because buying a T-shirt or a hair extension is easy to do. So many times, you hear horrific stories, and feel helpless. One person buying a T-shirt won't matter much in the grand scheme of things, but it will make the person who bought it feel a little more powerful and in control of fate for one short moment. I agree with the "sympathy fatigue" thing. Too many stories about problems get me feeling overwhelmed, and I think it's human nature to want some good news about someone who is getting the help she needs. I agree it might be hard for the other families who aren't sharing center stage, but so often the media is accused of only reporting the grim and gloomy. So when something good does make it onto the airwaves, that's not all bad to me.

    Answer by Ballad at 11:17 AM on Oct. 4, 2013

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