Shocking photos can capture people’s attention. Just ask the tobacco industry which started to post rather graphic photos on cigarette products in 2012. The pictures of cancerous lesions, blackened lungs and other morbid images have proven to be a fairly effective deterrent to smoking. Likewise, some of the most effective online melanoma awareness campaigns have shown very graphic images of scars and tumors. My most read blog post shows such images and I’m amazed that it’s still read many times a month despite having been written over 2 years ago. But it’s not just the ugly and gross photos that are shocking. Sometimes, the photos are quite beautiful.
Earlier this week, I was having lunch with two other co-workers. We chat with one another as we eat, but also tend to check our smart phones or tablets for news and just general online tidbits. On this day, I was checking my Facebook page and I scrolled to a photo of young Bethany Cobb, the 11-year old Stage IV melanoma warrior who is facing her last days. One of my lunch mates asked who that cute little girl is. I told her, and left out no detail. She sat shocked, with tears welling in her eyes, most likely thinking of her two children of 6 years and 10 months. She responded with a broken voice, “That’s too young. Damn it, that’s just not right.”
I responded in kind and then went on to explain to both co-workers how melanoma seems to affect more and more people, but old and very young. They listened.
Later in the week on casual Friday, I wore a t-shirt from a past melanoma walk. I’m required to a wear a lab coat of sorts throughout the day, so no one could really see the print on my shirt. As 5:00 drew near, I took off my jacket and sat back down at my desk to log off when I heard one of my colleagues behind me comment, “Wow, nice shirt!” I was a little surprised to hear this comment because the chair back would have covered any significant text regarding the MRF Raleigh Walk. All that was exposed was near the shoulder and…then it dawned on me.
You see, this one colleague is pretty much a dirty old man. Every time he sees a cute coworker or outside sales lady walk by, he’ll make some whispered innuendo comment to me. While I may agree with his assessment of someone’s beauty, I tend to maintain a more professional demeanor. This guy, however, doesn’t hide his more raw nature. In regards to my shirt, he was admiring the two screen printed images of Amanda Wall and Corey Haddon. Their photos are indeed beautiful, which would garner his normal response. He asked, “Holy cow, do you know those girls?”
“No, but I’ve met their parents.”
“Wow, they’re gorgeous! Let me know if you ever meet them!”
“I don’t think that’s possible.”
“Why not? Are you too old for them?”
“No. They’re dead.”
I went on to explain their story, of how each beautiful girl died of melanoma at far too young an age. My colleague sat in stunned and somewhat embarrassed silence for a while, then followed up with questions about melanoma. A brief conversation ensued, and I could see that he was enlightened.
Twice I unintentionally shocked people I work with into talking about melanoma and melanoma awareness. Neither time was it originated by grotesque photos, but by pictures of beautiful people in shockingly horrific circumstances. The shock factor is not the only way to get people to talk, but it is one way.
Whatever it takes…people need to know.