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I Am A Person, Not A Cancer: Trying To Change Attitudes Toward A Disease Many Can Now Live (Long) With

French authorities recently launched a campaign aimed not at the causes of cancer, but at one of its more debilitating effects: the social stigma that still persists.

I Am A Person, Not A Cancer: Trying To Change Attitudes Toward A Disease Many Can Now Live (Long) With
Delphine Chayet

Battling the disease is hard enough, but even in 2011 cancer patients still find themselves facing moments of embarrassment, close relatives who avoid them, and the fact that they have to fight to win back their positions at work.

Cancer is hardly an isolated problem. In France, one out of every two men and one out of every three women are likely to develop some type of cancer during their lifetime. Well aware both of the prevelancy of cancer and the stigma that tends to accompany it, the French Ministry of Health and the French National Cancer Institute have joined forces to launch a public-awareness campaign encouraging people to think more rationally about the disease.

When people are asked what cancer means to them, they usually come up with some very gloomy images. "Death, serious and pain are the first words that cross people's minds when they think about cancer," says Patrick Peretti-Watel, a sociologist at the Inserm (the National Institute of Health and Medical Research).

According to the Ministry of Health, about 70% of French people spontaneously say that cancer is the most serious disease, much more so than AIDS or heart failure. For that reason, according to the French National Cancer Institute: "People prefer not to think about it and not to talk about it. All the more so because 50% of the people polled say that they personally feel in danger."

Despite the advances in diagnosis and treatment, the gloomy misrepresentations have not changed much. Today, the five-year survival rate, for all cancer types, is higher than 50%. It reaches 80% for some cancer types. "Cancer-patients now live a more comfortable, longer life than before, and some of them are cured. But French people's mentality has not acknowledged these medical advances," says Nora Berra, a senior Health Ministry official.

The way people perceive cancer patients is a nuisance especially when recovering patients go back to work. According to a study published by the Institut Curie, 80% of patients found a job two years after they were diagnosed with a cancer. Rouhgly 27% of them even continued to work while they were being treated.

"But cancer patients must cope with a lot of negative things," epidemiologist Dr. Bernard Asselain notes. "They get tired more rapidly, especially women who had breast cancer. They cannot keep up the pace, but they would like to live like "they used to." The fear of having a relapse makes them very anxious. They are stressed out, they have sleeping disorders and sometimes they even suffer from depression."

The fact that their boss and their coworkers do not understand them is an additional obstacle. Indeed, some patients recover from the disease only to discover later that their careers have not. Roughly 20% of cancer patients report being denied promotions, or given less responsibility.

"Putting a lot into your work helps poeple move on, and lead a normal life again. It's vital," says Marie-Hélène, who was diagnosed with a uterine cancer at the end of 2009 that has gone into remission now. The 35-year-old management secretary from Rennes, who has a three-year-old child, was treated with chemotherapy and underwent two serious surgeries. After being on sick leave for one year, she has gone back to work full-time.

Christophe, 37, who was diagnosed with lymphoma, was on sick leave for three years, because he could not continue working as a warehouseman in a metallurgical company. "I missed my job so much. I felt like I was kept out of things," he says, adding that he did not tell his new employer that he had cancer.

These two recovering cancer patients agreed to pose for the public-awareness campaign. The latter is part of the 2009-2013 cancer plan, whose goal is to improve patients' quality of life. "I am a person, not a cancer," the posters read.

Read the original article in French.

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.

[*Italian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."

🇸🇩💥  IN OTHER NEWS

Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com!

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