With Stomach Cancer Awareness Month fast approaching in November, I hope people have had a chance to look at some of the ideas for raising awareness posted on our web site. In generating ideas, we wanted to include variety—some for individuals and some for groups. We wanted to include options that cost little money, if any. Ideally, though, we wanted to include options that not only raise awareness but also are fun and create a sense of community.
I think my favorite idea is one that I have decided to call our “Refrigerator Campaign.” It is actually a very simple concept, and it is something you already do at some point over the course of the year. Really, it is pretty easy…
Here is how it works. When you go to someone’s house for Thanksgiving, bring a food item. I know; you already do this. Perhaps you bring a casserole… a vegetable….some rolls, a pie….The only “new” step involves going to our web site to the tab called “Get Involved,” scrolling down to “Raise Awareness” and printing out an awareness flyer. There are a few from which to choose. There is one called “Awareness –November” that was specifically meant for use in November. But maybe you would rather use the one called “Awareness- Did you know?” After you print it out, tape it to the food item you are bringing to someone (or put it in the bag/box in which you will be transporting it.)
When you arrive and are handing them the food item, tell them that November is Stomach Cancer Awareness Month and that you would appreciate it if they could put the attached sheet on their refrigerator (hence, “Refrigerator Campaign”) and, when they have a minute, could they read it over. Ask them to leave it on the refrigerator (another food connection!) through the holiday season. Not only will they see it daily, but also it will serve as a reminder about stomach cancer and facts about it. Plus, when others visit, they will notice the flyer and may even ask about it. It opens a conversation and provides an opportunity to tell someone else about how important stomach cancer awareness is to you.
The beauty of this idea is that it can be used year-round when you go to a family gathering, a Super Bowl Party, or a 4th of July cook out. You can attach it to something store bought or homemade; it really doesn’t matter. Just print out one of the general flyers rather than the November one. I especially like this idea when it is done for no special reason. It is even more powerful when it is done just because…… In fact, the idea came from something that happened two years ago… September 14th, 2009 to be exact.
September 14th, 2007 was a second birthday of sorts for that was the day I had my stomach removed, the day that ultimately saved my life. On the first anniversary of the surgery, my brother Mike, who had his stomach removed on the same day as I did, and I along with our families commemorated the event by going out to brunch. It was a celebration of our progress and that we are alive and healthy.
In September 2009, going to brunch seemed somewhat extravagant, yet, I didn’t want the day to pass without remembering how lucky I am to be alive. Yes, I am grateful daily, but I wanted to honor the day somehow….My close friend Sue asked me how I would observe the day. I thought about it and all of a sudden it became clear: I wanted to share a meal with her. To clarify, I did not want to have dinner with her; I wanted to make a meal for her and bring it to her so she and her family could enjoy it for dinner on September 14th.
It might seem odd, but, for me, sharing food with her was symbolic on many levels…. Food is about so much more than the nutritional value it provides. Molly Wizenberg, captures beautifully the significance of food when she writes, “When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.” How beautiful to think of food in that way…
Besides the symbolic aspect of sharing food, from a practical perspective, I love the idea of being able to give people more time in their day (just as, thanks to my life-saving surgery, I have been given more time). Really, how often do we wish we had more hours in a day??The fact that Sue did not have to worry about making dinner that night made me so happy, because that meant she was able to do something with the time that would have been spent making dinner. Maybe she fit in a walk that day. Maybe she was more relaxed throughout the day knowing that dinner was “all set.” No matter what, she had more time. What an amazing gift that we could all use.
As I have learned extremely well since my surgery (although I certainly knew it before), food is such a part of culture, celebrations, daily lives, emotions, and memories. To share it with one another is beautiful and is a reminder to all of us to appreciate the simple things like the ability to digest food or to spend ordinary moments with those we love.
So, this “Refrigerator Campaign” was in the making, unbeknownst to me, two years ago when I experienced the power of sharing food with a friend “just because…” Since then, we have made many a meal for one another’s families… And the most recent meal I shared with her, just two weeks ago, was, quite appropriately, the official start of the “Refrigerator Campaign.”
We would love to hear about your involvement in our “Refrigerator Campaign.” Will you make something for a close friend? A co-worker? Trust me. Whoever is the lucky recipient of your shared food will be most appreciative and will hopefully do the same for someone else, ultimately increasing awareness about stomach cancer.
Let’s see how many refrigerators we can cover by the end of November!
Send your photo for inclusion in our refrigerator campaign collage, include city, state, country.