Bracelet popularity raises cancer awareness

It’s a confirmed case of yellow fever. And everyone – including athletes, celebrities, politicians and students – has it. “It,” of course, being champion cyclist Lance Armstrong’s bold, bright yellow LiveStrong wristband, whose sudden popularity and ubiquity is undeniable.

With the help of Nike and its high-profile spokesman, the Lance Armstrong Foundation has sold nearly 12 million wristbands to date, with daily sales at a record-breaking 300,000. The wristbands, engraved with Lance’s personal mantra – “LiveStrong” – and distinctly colored after the leader’s jersey during the Tour de France, are sold for one dollar apiece. All proceeds go to support the LAF’s advocacy, education, public health and research programs.

For the LAF, which hoped to raise a modest five million dollars through wristband sales, the sudden surge in demand comes as a welcomed surprise.

“We anticipated the wristbands to be popular during the Tour, but not after,” LAF spokesperson Lauren Ashkar said.

But with the perks of popularity – namely, increased funding – comes the risk of overexposure and preoccupation with inevitable decline.

“We don’t want (the wristbands) to be a fad and end up on some ‘what’s hot, what’s not’ list next month,” Ashkar said. “It’s important for people to remember (the wristbands) are more than a fashion statement.”

And for the ten million Americans living with cancer and for their loved ones, the wristbands are far more than a fall fashion accessory – they represent perseverance and survival while offering a silent sense of solidarity.

“It helps me share somewhat of the burden in a sense,” senior Travis Geraci said. His wristband, a gift from his mother who has been battling cancer for five years, represents a spirit of “victory, dedication (and) persistence” that Armstrong and all cancer survivors embody.

While a source of inspiration for some, others, like junior Brianna Carbonneau, view the wristbands as a “reminder of how fortunate we are” and “a great way to raise awareness.” Carbonneau has made hair donations and given money to cancer charities in the past and saw the wristbands as yet another means to voice support.

“(They) seem to have become trendy, which is a little frustrating,” said Carbonneau, who first heard about the bands on a television commercial early in the summer. “But I can’t complain because despite people’s intentions, the research is still getting funded.”

The research primarily addresses the challenges patients face post-cancer treatment. According to the Foundation’s Web site, even within the research division itself, two-thirds of the budget is dedicated to “issues of survivorship.” The remaining one-third of the budget funds research focused specifically on testicular cancer, from which Armstrong himself once suffered.

While some find such misconceptions to be simply discomforting, others, for whom LiveStrong holds considerable meaning, say they resent the sudden craze and the half-truths it perpetuates.

“It’s way overdone now,” said senior Fa’iz Marhami, whose wristband serves as a testimonial to both his parents’ struggles with cancer. Marhami said he is disheartened that such a significant token may be rendered a meaningless “cool thing to do.” He said the sales of the wristbands on auction sites, such as eBay, represent the direct source of his frustration.

Although the wristbands can only be legitimately purchased at the LAF’s online store (www.laf.org), the three to four week delivery wait has encouraged some to explore alternative avenues.

On eBay, profiteers can sell the wristbands for nearly seven times their original price, with two bracelets currently being auctioned at $13.50.

“That money isn’t going to the Foundation,” Marhami said. “People are just profiting off a good cause.”

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