Sorry (not sorry) for the swears but there have been too many new cases and regrowth and deaths recently for me hold them in. How many is too many? Any. Any is too many.
My beautiful and brave friend, Karleigh, wrote yesterday about receiving the worst news and having to tell her daughter that her daddy may die, another eloquent and awful post on her husband's cancer. A family friend's cancer has returned after years of remission. Another friend is contemplating a prophylactic mastectomy after the death of her sister. A stranger with a headscarf and no eyebrows fell heavily into the chair next to me at the shopping centre today and wept with fatigue.
It is so easy to feel helpless as those around me suffer through and live and die with this disease - yet another one of those things where you can easily throw your hands up and say - 'well there's nothing I can do'. But there always is.
On an individual level, a kind word, a shoulder to lean on or stocking a freezer with homemade meals is something. Making someone's life just a tiny bit easier is something.
At a less personal and more global level there are also plenty of things you can do. Here's my list of just 10 you could do today or tomorrow or next week to say 'fuck you, cancer' and play a role in preventing, treating or eradicating it.
1. Fundraise. Der. Give organisations like the Cancer Council your money. They have a list of ways you can fundraise so you don't have to wrack your brains for ideas, including things like Australia's Biggest Morning Tea, which has raised "over $110 million dollars since they first put the kettle on in 1994". That's not nothing.
2. Participate in an event or sponsor someone who is. I spent last year's Mothers' Day in my joggers, raising money for cancer support and research. Have a look for a Relay for Life or a Mothers Day Classic running event near you. If you're not a runner, don't just hit delete when a friend sends round a link to their fundraising page. Even just a few dollars helps. That's not nothing.
3. Just give. Don't wait for an event, you can give any amount whenever you like right here. You can also think ahead and stipulate a gift in your will. It's easy - the Cancer Council's even done the wording for you. That's not nothing.
4. Volunteer. The Cancer Council and other organisations rely on volunteers in a range of positions to keep funds directed where they're needed. They need volunteers to help run events as well as their various offices and retail stores: admin, customer service, collating mailouts, etc. A few hours here or there, or regular hours each week: that's not nothing.
5. Don't let the government reduce research funding to universities. Reducing the budget for the ARC or the NHMRC (which specifically funds medical/clinical research) means there's less research being done, less variety of research, and fewer avenues of very complex diseases being investigated. Complain loudly to your local member or write to the current minister for education, Christopher Pyne (you can even tweet him about it). That's not nothing.
6. Don't let the government pick and choose how research funding should be spent. Politicians are not experts and have agendas or beliefs that mean any decision to veto or remove funding to individual projects is suspect. Under the previous Liberal government, Brendan Nelson had a bee in his bonnet about projects that included any hint of sexuality or homosexuality in the title. It's censorship, plain and simple. But it's also entirely unhelpful for producing innovative work - sometimes the answers, the cures, the treatments come from unexpected places. Again - complain loudly to your local member or write to the current minister for education, Christopher Pyne (you can even tweet him about it). That's not nothing.
7. Be a guinea pig. Researchers obviously need subjects to study and to volunteer for drug and treatment trials but even if you don't have cancer, you can still be useful for research. I'm currently signed up for Register4, which is essentially a database of Australians who are willing to volunteer for cancer-related studies. You sign up, give your personal details, medical history and preferences and they'll match you up to appropriate research around the country. You can choose exactly how much or how little you'd like to volunteer on a spectrum from anonymous online surveys through to giving samples or having biopsies done. People with family histories of cancer are especially useful for looking at genetic components of the disease but you can also volunteer as part of a control group in order to give a "normal" baseline for testing. Most universities have news sites or bulletin board ads asking for research participants or you can let an organisation like Register4 link you up to an appropriate study. That's not nothing.
8. Reduce your own risks. You know what you should be doing: quiting smoking, being sun smart, getting regular check-ups and tests. No-one loves getting a pap smear but they've come a long way to reducing the number of cervical cancer deaths thanks to early detection. That's not nothing.
9. Encourage your loved ones to reduce their risks. Men are more likely to get and die from cancer. Part of the reason for this is that they are less likely than women to have regular check-ups and tests. They're also less likely than women to speak up when they sense something might be wrong. Don't let them be stoic. Don't let them be 'manly'. Make the appointment for the prostate check for them and drag them there if you have to. That's not nothing.
10. Share your story. It is upsetting to hear about this happening to people you know; it's upsetting to hear about this happening to strangers. In that sharing, and that hurt and empathy, there is a call to action. If hearing your story reminds someone to check their breasts or book that test or nag someone to stop smoking, that's not nothing.
Don't feel helpless. Do something.