MRU student uses coffee cups to spread cancer awareness
How you can help out on Nov. 8
By Bigoa Machar, Publishing Editor
With the holidays coming up, there are bound to be one or two stupid arguments on how Christmas-y Starbucks’ coffee cups are. Well here’s a better idea for you, how about coffee cups that actually mean something? That’s what Andrew Clark wants to do. Clark, a student at Mount Royal University, sat down with us and talked about how they’ll be handing out special coffee cups at Starbucks on Nov. 8 to help spread awareness for the Carcinoid-Neuroendocrine Tumour Society Canada (CNETS).
The Reflector: How did you get involved with this cancer agency and what made you want to help them spread awareness?
Andrew Clark: I first heard about CNETS shortly after my dad was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer in 2006 after having a biopsy of a small painful lump he felt on his scalp. After further scans and tests, we learned that it originated from a tumour on one of his lungs. My dad didn’t notice any particular symptoms in his chest, and the oncologist could not say how long it had been there. That’s one of the scariest parts of neuroendocrine cancer is that he could have had these tumours for years without knowing it. Because he wasn’t experiencing symptoms, the oncologist simply kept a close eye on monitoring my dad rather than providing treatment which may have caused more harm than provided benefits. A few more tumours were discovered and some were treated with various types of radiation. Eventually it was discovered that it had spread to his brain. As a family we began to notice symptoms as the tumour was affecting his personality, behaviour, and energy. He received radiation treatment which helped for a time, but eventually a neurosurgeon was required to perform a craniotomy to remove it. We were distraught to learn, the next year, that the brain tumour had grown back. This time however, the doctors couldn’t offer any further treatment without causing potentially more harm than benefit. After fighting a long and courageous battle, my dad passed away from the disease in May 2012.
During his years fighting neuroendocrine cancer, my dad felt that the disease was relatively unknown. There were lots of other cancer types that were well publicized, but not his. I want to use this opportunity on World NET Cancer Day to raise awareness for NET cancer as best I can to honour my dad, as well as raise my voice for all those, now or in the future, who will fight this ‘under the radar’ cancer.
TR: How many people are involved with this program and where are they located?
AC: World NET Cancer Day is truly spread around the whole world. The International Neuroendocrine Cancer Alliance (INCA) coordinates the initiative among its member organizations and the NET cancer community all over the globe, [amounting to seventeen countries]. In Canada, CNETS have several groups of people spread throughout the country, although the bulk of those involved are in the eastern provinces. There are a couple in British Columbia, myself in Alberta, no one in Saskatchewan or Manitoba, three people in Ontario (Fort Frances, London, and Ottawa), one in Montreal, and another in New Brunswick. Most of those involved have either been diagnosed with a NET, or have a family member who has.
TR: How does the coffee cup awareness program work?
AC: In addition to “World NET Cancer Day” the catch phrase for the awareness initiative is “Let’s Talk About NETS.” The INCA website states nicely: “To make this day successful, we are seeking support from all over the world. We want to encourage patients and supporters to start the conversation about NET Cancers in their local community. We are asking people, cafeterias, cafes and others, to use our World Net Cancer Day (Let’s Talk About NETs) branded coffee cups for the day.”
The initiative is to get down to the level of local communities to get people talking about NET cancer. I’m promoting this at MRU, but I am just one of many initiatives that collectively we hope will make a large impact all around the world. The use of coffee cups for the awareness promotes the social element of people talking about NETS at the local community level, but once people have their coffee and leave, others will notice the cup and hopefully will ask what it’s all about. Hopefully word continues to spread in this way.
This is the first year they have used coffee cups for the awareness initiative. It seems as though it will be a great success, and hopefully it will become a highly successful global effort every year.
Also from the INCA website, “The aim of World NET Cancer Day is to:
• Raise awareness of NET cancers
• Ensure equity in access to care and treatment for NET cancer patients around the world.
• Increase funds for research, treatments, patient support
• Improve quality of life and reduce misdiagnosis
TR: How can someone donate to the cancer agency?
AC: Anyone willing to make donations to CNETS Canada are welcome to visit the donation page on their website: cnetscanada.org/support-us/online-donation/ or alternatively, they can send a cheque or money order via mail.
Be sure to check out CNETS website to learn more about the organization and how you can get involved.