Some diseases just aren’t sexy enough

(Emma Chapple\The Aquinian)

It’s every girl’s least favourite time of year (or most favourite, if sad half-mustaches your thing). Movember, that magical time of year when men attempt to grow a face caterpillar for prostate cancer awareness.
But, did you know that November is also Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month? Unless someone close to you suffers from the disease, probably not.
Prostate cancer awareness is a product of very good marketing. Every year, men and boys alike strive to achieve sexy facial hair of Tom Selleck proportions. And as I write this, STUSU now has a moustache on their Facebook profile picture. It’s safe to say Movember has become a phenomenon – the pink ribbon for men.
Yes, the pink ribbon. As far as marketability of disease goes, breast cancer is the success story. It’s hard to believe the disease once carried a tremendous amount of stigma, so much so that even saying the word “breast” on television was a no-no.
Somewhere down the line we stopped being so prudish and realized sex sells. And like I’ve said many times, it’s very easy to make breast cancer “sexy,” regardless of the decidedly un-sexy reality of having a life-threatening disease. Save the Boobies, Support Your Girls, Titz & Glitz. Breast cancer is a marketer’s dream come true.

(Emma Chapple\The Aquinian)
(Emma Chapple\The Aquinian)

Inflammatory bowel disease often gets the short end of the stick, even though Canada has some of the highest rates of diagnosis. It’s not easy to market a disease when the primary symptom is diarrhea. It’s why medications used to treat inflammatory bowel are usually advertised for its other, more palatable uses like treating arthritis.
The mass media has effectively silenced people who suffer from Crohn’s and Colitis. And unfortunately, the sex factor has a lot to do with it. We can criticize it all we want, but the sex factor has made us more comfortable with other diseases. Women (and even men) know that a lump in their breast is cause for concern; men know they need to get their prostate checked. Lives have been saved.
We’re not comfortable talking about inflammatory bowel disease because when you get down to it, it’s about poop. And when we hear that word, we either burst into laughter like little children or look down and pretend we didn’t hear.
You know what? I’m just as guilty. The tagline for inflammatory bowl disease awareness – “Get Gutsy” – makes me cringe. I’ve held off on liking the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Facebook page because I’m worried about being judged.
Until someone cracks the code and finds a better way to sell inflammatory bowel disease, I’m stuck in a shame cycle. It’s why I choose my Facebook likes carefully. It’s why when before I was diagnosed, I didn’t tell anyone – not even my own mother – about my symptoms for weeks until I couldn’t hide it anymore.
As far as I’m concerned, I’m no longer waiting for a cure. I’m waiting on good marketing.


  1. I was diagnosed with uc in 2004 at age 21, Breast Cancer in 2013 age 30 and bowel cancer in 2014 age 31. I can assure you that none of these are ‘sexy’

  2. And it is that attitude that prevents any change. IBD is NOT something to hide or be ashamed of. It is a serious medical condition that effects the ENTIRE body, in so many ways. It’s not “just a bathroom” disease. No one asked for this. Nor did they do anything to cause it. If we want to move forward, WE need to make the change. It’s time to come out of the bathroom, start the conversation, advocate and raise awareness. No, it’s not “sexy.” But, it is real, and it is serious. And once we change our attitudes about it, then and only then, can we make a difference. And if more people truly understand what it’s about, and how serious it is, there are marketing people who COULD really do something with it. Especially since the disease manifests in so many different ways.


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