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Cancer, associations against the disease



Associations against cancer

April is the month dedicated to the fight against cancer, and to the effort that many associations spend into countering it. Cancer is a disease with a long and painful progression, that tends to isolate those who suffer from it either because they think they are a burden to their families and friends, or due to extreme fatigue. This is why associations against cancer such as LILT, Pagaie Rosa Dragon Boat and Mettiamoci le Tette, together with grassroot initiatives such as Just The Woman I Am, operate: they try to keep hope alive in ill people, and to guide them in a healing journey.

Cancer, prevention and information

The experience of cancer is extremely traumatic, not only for those who have it but also for friends and relatives. Being a degenerative disease targeting both body and mind, it is easy for patients to fall into despair and to look for solitude. «To have cancer means to deal with our own frailty and with fear of failure» psychologist Monica Agnesone explains.

Frailty of the body however must not lead to discouragement, and to avoid this ill people need to have access to transparent information about the outcome of the disease and what is the best way to face it. «This is the method to make the body’s signals more readable and controllable, so that patients can look at it as a resource and not as something outside of their control» psychologist Marco Gonella says.

«It is crucial to carry out a territorial prevention program, making sure it is perfectly spread out» Donatella Tubino, nutritionist biologist and president of LILT, highlights. «Primary prevention consists in talking to people in gathering places such as schools, to inform them about correct lifestyles. In secondary prevention, on the other hand, LILT acts as a supporting association in healthcare during oncological checkups» she explains. Information is only successful when it reaches everyone, so that they can be prepared if needs be.

Grouping up against the disease

While primary information is generally dished out by doctors and psychologist, people with cancer need to share common experiences with others that faced or are facing the disease. The feeling of loneliness has to be avoided, as it is a surefire way to fall in an uncomfortable and damaging place. Associations are needed to give the support people require to fight back at the disease and be reborn by sticking together. 

Carla Diamanti, president of the ONLUS Mettiamoci le Tette, suggests a healing process that comprises therapy but also introspection, much needed to keep sane in such a dire situation. Diamanti’s association merges medical information with psychological and personal support to patients. «We fight to make sure that structures that deal with senology and help women follow this process» Diamanti says.

The activities proposed by the association are focused on building lasting relationships between patients and ex-patients. One of the most famous projects is the “Wig Project”, where those who successfully healed from cancer gift their wig to those who need it. «It is a form of passing of the torch from women who overcame this trial» Diamanti continues. A message of hope passed from one woman to the other.

Sport against cancer

Associations also work to encourage the practice of physical activity for cancer patients, as it is proven to help them contrast the disease and improve their mental health. However, cancer is a painful illness that often impairs movement, and that is why it must be encouraged. «Years ago doctors recommended women who were recovering from breast cancer not to exercise to avoid the onset of lymphoedema» Mariagrazia Punzo, president of the Association Pagaie Rosa Dragon Boat, says.

Punzo however clarifies that this is an outdated idea, and that the benefits of a team-based physical activity are manyfold, such as the feeling of being part of a group. «Even if when we go out on a boat we may feel our head filled with negative thoughts, we know that we will always reach the coast with our comrades» she says, highlighting the catharsis that takes hold in people who struggle together.

In the same way, the president of CUS Riccardo D’Elicio created the event Just the Woman I Am, a yearly run intended to raise awareness in men and women about the gravity of cancer and the importance of physical activity for prevention. «Until physical activity are integrated in the official protocols against cancer, then we will not be able to say that we have beaten the disease» D’Elicio explains, pointing out that sport should not necessarily be competitive, but it should foster a sense of brotherhood. «At CUS we thought about finding something that may unite women, creating a run that is not a competition but a moment of gathering».

In short, medical therapy is pivotal in healing cancer, as is the support from psychologists, friends, relatives and “travel companions”. «A loving, educated environment ready to promptly answer the patient’s needs allows them to face their disease and nurture positive emotions» Agnesone concludes. It is the only way people can overcome cancer, either by preventing it in the first instance, or by taking back their lives after treatment and operation. And finally having back the serenity they deserve.

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