“What can we do to fight cancer?” asked CAS senior Brianna Fu, the President of Coalition Against Cancer (CAC) at NYU.
Fu explained the role of a student-run organization in fighting against the seemingly insurmountable threat of cancer, a disease that claims almost 600,000 lives per year.
“It’s a really interesting experience,” Fu said. “It brings a lot of people together, and it’s a good common ground for people to share.”
Providing common ground with other students is what drew Fu to join the club near the end of her first year, and eventually pursue leadership. Gallatin senior Paul Roessling, a member of CAC, emphasizes the importance of community in achieving CAC’s mission as an advocacy group.
“Simply projecting a message is important to get people aware that the group is there, and the next step is allowing people to come in, to share their experiences, to feel as if they’re validated and that their experience is important among their peers,” Roessling said.
Throughout the year, CAC’s advocates participate in a variety of service events. This includes volunteering to meal prep with The Ronald McDonald House and similar organizations that support families of patients throughout the treatment process.
Other services includes staffing walk-run marathons for cancer research. This entails set-up, registration and cheering on the participants, which Fu finds especially impactful.
“It’s a heavy topic, but [this] is a way to celebrate the survivors and the fact that there’s research going into it and stuff like that,” Fu said.
Creating positive interactions and celebrating hope motivates many other CAC projects, including Links of Hope, an awareness event hosted last year in Washington Square Park. CAC asks community members to write down what they hate about cancer on slips of paper, which are linked to form a giant chain in the park.
“[Cancer] is a very sensitive topic, and if you want to address a sensitive topic, very painful issue, you need to be engaging with people in a way that is sensitive to their needs and allows them to express their pain,” Roessling said.
Links of Hope also garners attention through its visibility, and the ability to generate curiosity is a particularly important aspect of CAC.
“We get to talk to people one-on-one to get them to write on these links, but then at the end, we lay the whole thing out and everyone in the park is like, ‘What’s going on here?’” Roessling said. “We actually got all of our friends interested.”
Reaching and captivating students can be difficult as one club amongst hundreds of NYU extracurricular groups. There is also the prevalence of advocacy in New York where crowds rally for a different cause almost every weekend in Washington Square Park.
“Of course [students] care about the fight against cancer, but some people have other things to worry about in the moment,” Fu said. “It’s desensitizing, almost.”
CAC also faces the obstacle of obtaining organizational resources.
“Public events, besides the things we can do at the park here, takes a lot more logistics than we can really cover as a less than five-member e-board,” Roessling said.
Despite the limits of being a student-run club, CAC remains active and engaged in organizing activities, some of which are coming up this month. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in addition to walks for St. Jude’s Hospital and the Leukemia Lymphoma society, CAC will host a Breast Cancer Awareness Event with a game of true or false to challenge widely-held held misconceptions about breast cancer.
“Everyone’s been touched by cancer or everyone has some sort of connection to it,” Fu said. “Everyone knows someone who has dealt with it. We’re all in the fight together.”
Email Trinity Casimir at [email protected]