I can beat cancer, but the awkward keeps recurring.
October 12, 2011 6:09 PM   Subscribe

My team at work is fundraising for a cancer organization. Would it be weird to disclose that I'm a cancer survivor?

I'm participating in the fundraising effort, and I thought it might be a nice motivator to explain why the particular organization is so important to me (and maybe help raise a few more dollars.) I was going to briefly mention it in the customary coworker charity-begging spam. Then I started overthinking it and now I'm worried it might be awkward. I'm friendly but not close with my coworkers, and I haven't talked to any of them about it before. Would this totally weird you out?

I've been in remission since childhood, so no current health concerns.
posted by animalrainbow to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would be oddly flattered if a coworker mentioned it personally.

I think I'd be a little hesitant to believe the story if the first time I heard about it was in a fundraising email.

Maybe mention it to a couple of coworkers, let it circulate for a day or so as office gossip tends to do, then mention in the email that "after I mentioned this to X and Y yesterday, I realized that most people don't know this about me..."
posted by meindee at 6:21 PM on October 12, 2011

Honestly, I'd be kind of offended. Work solicitations for money for are inappropriate enough as far as boundaries go (I guarantee that it pisses off a bunch of people in your office, even if you have the office culture where that's common), adding what amounts to a guilt trip on to it would really bother me, and make you and your cause really unappealing. I donate generously, and as much as I can afford, to causes that are important to me. Don't ask me to donate to causes that are important to you, especially if you think it's okay to lay a personal guilt trip on top of that.
posted by brainmouse at 6:23 PM on October 12, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I'd mention it to others that are also helping, but would not put it in the mass email.
posted by Neekee at 6:35 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think this depends on how you're doing the fundraising, but mostly I'd go with not mentioning it. That makes it seem like you're only mentioning it to make some extra bucks, which people don't respond well to. Since you haven't mentioned it before, I think it's enough to let people know that this cause means a lot to you personally. If they ask, then you can get into the story. Then it will have a lot more impact on the people who actually are going to care.

On the other hand, if this is the kind of thing where you'll be talking to a group of people, that's a great way to share your story and show how the kind of support you're asking for really makes a difference.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:39 PM on October 12, 2011

I like Neekee's idea - you can mention it personally to people, especially if they ask you about the charity or if you're talking about the work the charity does with them (and I mean 'talking about' not 'delivering a sales pitch about'). But I'd be pretty uncomfortable to read that in a mass fundraising email (which are already uncomfortable enough to start).
posted by Lady Li at 6:39 PM on October 12, 2011

I wouldn't put it in the email, but if it comes up organically in conversations about it, then sure.

To prime the pump, as it were, you could say in the email something like, "Cancer has affected many of us personally, so... etc. etc. etc." That could lead to a sharing of stories. You may not be the only survivor, and there are certainly others in your work group who have had a friend or loved one who has had cancer, so something like that might get people to share their stories, which would give you the opportunity to share yours.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:39 PM on October 12, 2011

Is there some common area where people put up posters? When we fundraise for the Canadian Cancer Society at my university we put up posters in the student building that say things like "I am fighting cancer because..." and leave lots of space for people to write on it.

Maybe something similar at your workplace would be an appropriate way to share your own story without connecting it directly to the fundraising. It might also be a good way to raise awareness of your fundraising.
posted by sarae at 7:56 PM on October 12, 2011

And by "I am fighting cancer" I don't literally mean fighting cancer as in having cancer, I mean raising money to fund research that will fight cancer. Obviously that wording isn't quite right, but I think the idea is still there.
posted by sarae at 7:57 PM on October 12, 2011

I've got several opinions on the matter and since I'm waiting for my iPhone to do it's thing for the umpteenth time tonight, here's them all:
  • I know people who have lost a close family member to cancer after being in miserable health for years. There was never a chance of beating the cancer, just prolonging life as long as this person felt living was tolerable. These people (unknown to most) get very upset when they hear about so-and-so who so bravely fought cancer and won -- a cancer that was caught early, is easily treatable and has excellent survival rates. What, the family member who passed didn't fight hard enough? The entire "I fought cancer and won" sort of bragging is tough to swallow. That's not to say the fact that someone didn't die as their family member did is seen negatively. Just the implication of fighting hard to beat it is what cured it part.
  • There's someone at work who does an annual fund raiser to combat something that his brother died from about a decade ago. It's a fairly large office and many people do not have much regular interaction with those outside their department. Accordingly, this person is know as "the guy whose brother died from that disease thing" to many people and as not much else.
  • Workplace solicitations for money rub me the wrong way, no matter how good the cause. No, I don't want cookies; no, I don't care how many times you walk around a local golf course; no, I don't want any magazines. Every week there's two or three office-wide emails asking for money for some noble cause. I wish I was offered money at work as often as it was solicited. And I know there's many parents who do not bring their/their children's fundraising in because there's be two emails a day.
  • "Hey, I'm here because there was enough scientific knowledge about curing/fighting this disease 20 years ago, your donation will help make sure that more people will be able to say the same thing in the future" makes the issue hit home. Wasn't if the facebook asshole who said that people care more about the homeless cat across the street than the starving person halfway around the world? He's right. (That's not to say you're a homeless cat, simply that making things matter to someone means hitting close to home.)
And my phone still isn't done. I think it's toast. Time to pay the termination fee and get a 4S on Sprint.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:49 PM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

It really, really depends on your office culture and how you fit into it. As several people have noted, solicitations at work can be irritating on principle. On the other hand, sometimes it can be handled in a way that makes everyone feel good about it (including those who don't give.)

Find a couple different coworkers and convince them to be truly straight with you about this.
posted by desuetude at 9:38 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

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