Yael Cohen started fighting cancer with two words: “F*** Cancer.” She had those words printed on a T-shirt for her mom, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009.
“My mom isn’t the kind of woman to say f***, let alone wear the word f***,” said Cohen, “so I was shocked when she wore it in public.” Cohen said she was even more shocked by the way strangers reacted when her mom wore the T-shirt.
“People hugged her, high-fived her and wanted to hear her story and share theirs,” said Cohen, who decided to use the impact of those two words to help others. In October 2009, she founded the non-profit organization F Cancer, based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The mission of F Cancer is to save lives by spreading the message that 90% of cancer is curable in stage one. Its campaigns emphasize actively looking for cancer rather than just waiting to find it.
Since its inception, F Cancer has encouraged kids to talk to their parents about early detection. To make this conversation easier, the team at F Cancer built a campaign called The Cancer Talk. They compared it to the “sex talk” that parents have with their kids because they love them and want to keep them safe.
“This campaign was so successful that we turned it into an asset that’s always available on our website,” said Cohen.
In its Touch Yourself campaign, F Cancer used humor to teach people how to do self-exams. “We realized this was an awkward topic for most people, so instead of trying to tiptoe around it, we decided to make it full-on weird,” said Cohen.
Touch Yourself involved a contest with the video website “Funny or Die.” Entrants submitted a video or script that explained how to do a self-exam in an outrageous or funny way. “We had really fantastic entries that were funny or ridiculous but taught people how to do a self-exam, and the winner is being flown to Los Angeles for his prize next month,” said Cohen.
Two words on a T-shirt led to this successful nonprofit, and Cohen’s mom, whose cancer was caught early, is doing well. “She really believes this was the silver lining of her cancer,” Cohen said, “and if we can turn our pain into purpose and help other people in the same situation, then I’m a happy lady.”