Superheroes versus cancer
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author

Cancer is a staggering diagnosis no matter what age it is received at, but it is particularly devastating to see children diagnosed with such a disease. Harder still is explaining to a child what is happening to their body, and the long fight that is ahead of them.
"Beginning the treatment is always a scary process, as much for the child as it is for the family," noted Dr. Cecilia Lima da Costa, head of Pediatric Oncology at A.C.Camargo Cancer Center.  
But the A.C.Camargo Cancer Center in São Paulo has come up with a new way to deal with that issue, and to make the fight seem a little more manageable for its younger patients. In conjunction with the ad agency JWT and Warner Brothers, a JWT client, A.C.Camargo is now presenting its chemotherapy treatments as "superformula" for pediatric patients. New plastic cases for the chemotherapy IV bags have been designed that feature the colors and logos of DC Comics superheroes such as Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. In addition, the game room and others parts of the Cancer Center have been redecorated into the Justice League's Hall of Justice.  
As JWT notes on its blog, the campaign stemmed from the belief that "the first step to the fight against cancer is believing in the cure … The new name and look of the treatment helped to change the perception in the kids by convincing them that the Superformula gave them their own superpower which could be used to conquer their illness."  
In addition, the team also developed a series of custom comic books in which some of the most famous members of the Justice League fight a disease similar to cancer, caused by a gas released by a supervillain. The "superformula," which is developed by doctors and specialists in the comic books, just as in real life, is then administered to the superheroes to help them recover. The comic books enable the doctors and nurses to explain cancer to their young patients, and along with the special IV bag cases, help the children understand that chemotherapy, even though it makes them sick, is meant to help them fight their own disease. It also helps to instill the belief that cancer, like a comic book villain, is something that can be fought and overcome.
The campaign is one example of how cancer in particular has become, in a way, a 'public' disease. While patients can always count on support from their family and friends when sick or hospitalized, most diagnoses aren't aired beyond that group. But these days, a cancer diagnosis can often be a rallying point for support not only from a patient's immediate circle, but also from the community; Lance Armstrong's long-term battle with cancer—and the significant fundraising for cancer research as a result of the Live Strong movement—is just the most famous example. And in turn, the increased public awareness and support has helped to push research and treatments forward as communities host events such as charity walks to raise money in support of individuals' treatment or for further research.
While fighting cancer is ultimately a battle that has to be waged individually, efforts such as these that provide strength and support—and a new way of looking at the disease—are helping to make the battlefield a bit more level.

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