Stop The Stigma

On Saturday I was incredibly sad to read the news that the incredibly talented Caroline Aherne had passed away. 

The Royle Family was a firm favourite in our house when I was younger and many fond memories of laughing (and crying when Nana died) with my parents and sister all together watching the show together. 

I found myself genuinely upset that she had passed away, and so young especially knowing it was cancer of all things. Social media tributes start popping up everywhere with people sharing their comments and sadness at the loss of such a wonderful lady. It didn’t take long for the inevitable to happen. 

She shouldn’t have smoked

Lung cancer? Oh then she deserved it. 

It really is that cut and dry with some people. Instantly jumping to a conclusion and no sympathy because, well she asked for it. 


Who asks to die from cancer? 

Why are people so quick to shove blame in someone’s direction? Refuse to empathise because lung cancer is a dirty disease that only affects smokers. It doesn’t. 

If you have lungs, you can have lung cancer. 

It still angers me that lung cancer is by far the most common cause of cancer death in the UK. More than one in five (22%) cancer deaths in males and females combined are from lung cancer. ( ) But did you know that? Probably not. You see there is such a stigma about lung cancer. It’s a “dirty” disease and goes hand in hand with smoking. I guarantee that if a person has lung cancer one of the first responses from people will be “do you smoke?” No words of comfort, straight there asking if they brought it on themselves. 

There’s no fancy charity campaigns for lung cancer. How on earth can you make it marketable; it’s linked to coughing, nicotine, black lungs… No pretty pink colours or fancy tshirts because who wants to be associated with that?

It’s worrying that despite being the most common and most deadly, there’s little known awareness or funding. Taken from the Cancer Research site in simple terms:

Breast cancer receives just over £3,500 of research funding per death from the disease. Leukaemia receives over £7000 of research funding per mortality.

Lung cancer receives just over £400 per death.

So the biggest killer which has such a small survival time from diagnosis to death receives such a small figure in comparison? How frightening that such prejudice is still out there and so many people are dying yet nothing seems to be done. 

Caroline Aherne was born with cancer of the eye. She also had bladder cancer and lung cancer due to a genetic condition but let’s just focus on if she smoked or not so that those on their high horses can look down their noses. This blame mentality is causing so many to die unnecessarily. Isn’t it about time we looked at the facts and realise that the one that statistically is the most fatal and killing the most, really should sit at the top of the funding and research pile?

How in 2016 do we still instantaneously associate any liver or kidney issues to alcohol abuse, and lung /respiratory problems to smoking? 

I truly hope that one day this dated and unjust stigma can be ended, and more can be done so that lung cancer no longer equals led a death sentence. To watch anyone die from cancer is agonising. No one would ever choose to die this way. Cancer can rob you of everything and leave you as a shell of a person. It’s agonising for those left behind so people should think before casting damning aspersions. Before you ask, yes my Mom died of lung cancer aged 59. And no she didn’t smoke. Just remember; cancer is evil, not the person. 

B xx

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  1. 4th July 2016 / 2:43 pm

    Wise words, well said. We can be too quick to judge can’t we? Especially for lifestyle choices, as if we are perfect! I’m sorry about your Mum. xxx

  2. 4th July 2016 / 4:24 pm

    People are so quick to judge….
    It is so sad about Caroline Aherne….

  3. Helen W
    4th July 2016 / 5:46 pm

    Brilliantly put well done
    My husband had a stage 3 going into 4 tumour found by pure accident when having a tonsil out needless to say all kinds of crazy broke out and yes he smoked but no he didn’t deserve it luckily after lots of radiotherapy and chemotherapy and a loss of 3 & half stone it was done with the doctors thought, nope it was still spreading so half his neck was cut away along with quite a few lymph nodes and that was that
    The hardest part of watching him go through all of this was seeing the very young children with cancer what did they do wrong? There was even new born babies with cancer it was truly heartbreaking as my hubby and I both said at least he had lived for 56 years they hadn’t even begun to live and were having to fight for their lives so cancer doesn’t care what age you are or whether you have smoked,drank or taken drugs it really isn’t fussy
    We have since watched his mother die from the same cancer 8 months start to finish and 2 more of his brothers fight the same cancer 1 smoked 1 didn’t so the doctors were suddenly aware that this was a gene thing and our son and other nephews now have to be watched and a sore throat taken very seriously just in case
    I feel that people think they can say what they like nowadays without a single thought for the cancer fighter or the families sometimes left behind and I just now think there is a lot of keyboard warriors who have no care for anything as long as they say what they want
    Us we are just pleased my husband is still here and we carry on fighting the side effects of treatment and also raising money for the hospice that gives him treatment and we will just remember our manners and be very thankful he went to get a tonsil out one day or he would not be with us

  4. 4th July 2016 / 7:44 pm

    Such am important and powerful post lovely, no one deserves cancer and people are way too quick to judge. Well done for spreading awareness

    Stevie xx

  5. Danielle
    4th July 2016 / 10:12 pm

    Absolutely wise words and thank you for your thoughts. I hope this makes people take a step back and think….. Should we judge people who eat for having stomach or bowel cancer? Absolutely not! Can I add awareness for another vastly underfunded and potentially more deadly cancer – Pancreatic. The mean survival rate after diagnosis is less than 3 months. Less than 5% of those diagnosed make 1 year. Less than 1% of people diagnosed make 5 years. I believe this is the worst outlook of any cancer. All cancers make me shudder, but lung and pancreatic have the worst prognosis. Whilst my father lay dying of pancreatic cancer 11 years ago while I was 36 weeks pregnant with my first child and his first grandchild, we met another family whose mother was passing away from breast cancer. Both families in an awful situation and despite our kindred situations I couldn’t help but feel unrealistically bitter that maybe their mother had possibly had more of a chance of survival than our dad. She at least had had a chance to fight, and had courageously fought her battle over many years. Our dad had only found out weeks before and I knew he’d never get the chance to meet his first grandchild. The result? It doesn’t matter how you get there, why you get there or if there seems to be no logical reason why you are there, the death of a loved one, especially premature, is traumatic and devastating. This does not leave room for judgement to why an individual is in a particular situation. I am upset to hear of this poor women’s death at age just 52, especially reports she died alone 😪

  6. 5th July 2016 / 7:06 am

    Beth this is so beautifully written, well done my friend xx

  7. 5th July 2016 / 12:49 pm

    Well said. So many people are quick to judge at such a sad time for a family. I also didn’t realise how little funding lung cancer research receives. It was such sad news to hear about Caroline.

  8. 5th July 2016 / 7:42 pm

    I didn’t even consider her being a smoker at all – I was just very saddened as I have always loved her work. SO sad. And that your Mum is gone too. Cancer sucks so much 🙁 xx Well said xx

  9. 6th July 2016 / 1:44 pm

    I read this with tears in my eyes, cancer is fairly close to home for me right now. It’s so upsetting to think that people in that horrible situation are being judged