I awoke this morning to a Facebook message from a friend sharing a story about a woman who discovered photographs of her deceased son on a child cancer awareness Instagram account (@chillhoodcancer229). The problems are: the photos were posted without permission, the photos implied the child is still alive, and the entire account uses photos of sick children to market their cancer support swag.
If you visit the Instagram account and click on this photo, comments like this one from his mother are posted everywhere, “teamdamian1: I’m his mom. He died November 5, 2016. His birthday was March 21 and this is how this sick, disgusting, pathetic person shares my amazing child’s legacy. I’m disgusted and I wish she would show her face. Must be nice sitting behind a computer….. I HATE this person.”
Understandably, this mother is having an intensely emotional response to someone using her beloved son’s image of his fight against a terrible disease. She is not the only one. If you spend time clicking through the various photos, many have comments from people asking that the photos be taken down due to posting without permission—in fact, some are posted as current pictures, despite the images being old. Individuals are reporting the page to Instagram, but it is still active, making a profit off of the grief of families. There is even a Change.org petition requesting Instagram remove the account.
As we all know, sickness doesn’t play favorites. Popular singer Michael Bublé and wife Luisana Lopilato faced the news of their oldest son’s cancer diagnosis in 2016. The owner of the @chillhoodcancer229 posted an image of Bublé and son, Noah, on March 25, 2018, including an incorrect age and implying the child was recently diagnosed. Of course, the singer was not tagged, so it’s entirely likely he is clueless to the exploitation happening to his and other families with sick, dying, and dead children.
It is immoral and unethical to profit off of the hardship and pain of others. People like the owner of the Instagram account in question lack empathy and understanding for other people, and instead want to find a way to make a buck. As a cancer fighter (in fact, I just completed stage one of my recovery from a stem cell transplant) I know how quickly people want to support and give to causes that affect those they love. I’ve had friends and family make donations to leukemia and cancer research charities in my honor. However, due to the generosity of so many people, it is easy for con artists to take advantage of that giving spirit to line their own pockets.
I encourage you all to take a moment and report the Instagram account. Also, please make your donations and purchases wisely. Know where your money is going—to the CEOs bank account or to grants for real research?