Saturday, June 2, 2012
Meet Yael Cohen, The Founder of Fuck Cancer
Article by Sarah Davis
To say that this is an ordinary charity is an understatement, but ordinary hasn't turned too many heads when it comes to cancer. Meet the girl behind the charity that is finally getting people to notice and changing the way we think about the big "C".
Meet Yael Cohen, the founder of Fuck Cancer, the cancer charity that educates people (particularly Generation Y) about early cancer detection and leading a healthy, informed lifestyle, rather than cancer research. With the bold name, blaring t-shirts, and celebs on board like Sophia Bush, Catt Sadler, and Ke$ha pushing fans to have "The Cancer Talk" with their parents, it's hard not to notice this campaign. Cohen, the Vancouver-based 25-year old behind Fuck Cancer, says that it's time that our generation finally take action and she hopes that her campaign opens many doors for people to start talking about this disease, because if people are comfortable enough to openly talk about it, they are more likely to look for early signs. With 90% of cancers being curable if caught in Stage 1, early detection, she says, is the closest thing to a cure for cancer that we have ever come to. The charity also encourages people to lead healthy lifestyles, eating the right foods, drinking enough water, and getting enough exercise, to prevent cancer.
So why are so many people noticing this campaign, even celebrities? Surely, we've been fighting cancer for many years now. "Our message is raw and people really see that we believe in what we do," says a humble Yael. For Yael, "Fuck Cancer" comes from a personal story. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and as a result, she made her a t-shirt that simply read "Fuck Cancer." While this thought might stand out because of the explicit word, it is an honest, raw sentiment towards a disease that can be caught early and says exactly what most people are thinking. Her mother is cancer-free now, because she was able to catch her cancer early enough.
Within just two years, other t-shirts, similar to the one she made for her mother, became one of the most popular anti-cancer shirts ever (Sophia Bush has tweeted photos of herself in the shirt). Cohen was even named one of this year's top 100 creative people in business by Fast Company, alongside the creators of Facebook, Google, and Starbucks. Sophia Bush and other celebs helped out by filming videos urging kids to have "The Cancer Talk" with their parents, informing them to get checked out if they notice any signs.
Fuck Cancer aims to target Generation Y, which generally speaking is people ages 17-35, but Fuck Cancer extends that to anyone with a parent. They explain that in today's age, kids affect their parents more than any other generation before us, with the "exponential growth in technology and education." If we can teach our parents how to work Facebook or Twitter, we need to be able to teach them how to look for signs of cancer.
In a recent Tedx Talk, held in Vancouver, Yael said that we aren't fighting cancer anymore, we're fighting apathy. 90-95% of all cancers are curable if caught early. She went on to say that many people don't see or want to see early signs because cancer can be embarassing or depressing to talk about. With a campain like this, she hopes to lighten the mood, make it a comfortable topic within families, and really spread the word that cancer doesn't need to take as many lives as it does. "The most rewarding part [of what I do] is helping people on the some of the hardest days of their lives. There are dozens of specific experiences I could recount, but the one that happens often is when people send pictures of themselves/families/friends all in our shirts in the chemo ward or hospital room etc with giant smiles and warm embraces. It's wonderful to know that we give people joy and support when they need it most,"she says. Aside from promoting early detection, Fuck Cancer gives people hope to be "cancer-fuckers" or fighters. Again, for some, "cancer-fuckers" might stand out because of the explicit words, but Yael says,with experience, that laughter is one of the best ways one can fight in such a terrible time.
I asked Yael what her own words to live by were, as I ask everyone who I interview for Style & Wisdom, and she simply said, in the words of Ghandi, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Yael is the perfect, inspiring example of someone who took a lemon life threw her, and used her passion to start a movement that is saving lives. It also shows how important a change in thinking can be. If we approach cancer differently, we can end how many lives it takes.
For more information on F Cancer, visit letsfcancer.com and you can follow @msfuckcancer on Twitter for updates from Yael.
Photo Credits: Jamie Lauren Photography