This is the big weekend in 2012 for Relay For Life of Second Life. “Relay For Life is the signature event of the American Cancer Society and has been active, and continually growing in Second Life, for 7 years” – and, on July 14th and 15th, the ACS holds its big event for this year’s campaign in SL. I may be too sensitive, maybe foolishly sensitive, but the other day I had one of the most touching experiences I have ever lived in Second Life: for the first time I visited the virtual American Cancer Society Memorial Garden.
Except for Ars Northmead, whom I have had very little contact with (mainly because I knew his business partner, Sarco), I have not met anyone on the pictures shown at the ACS Memorial Garden. Nonetheless, I could somehow feel their presence – for they are remembered, for they have touched other people’s lives, for they have been loved and probably have loved as well, and now they help us remember.
The fundraiser events for the ACS are probably the most successful case of a long-time beneficent campaign in SL. The “Relay For Life of Second Life” campaign has been organized since 2005 and, since then, over US$ 1 million has been raised. In 2011, the RFL of SL raised about US$ 375,000, according to the SL Wiki. ACS, itself, opened its headquarters in SL in 2007 and now holds a memorial garden where we can remember some of the residents who had to face cancer (and we can help by buying flowers at the entrance and leaving the arrangements at their pictures). This year, the RFL of SL is planned to happen on July 14 and 15, but there are other fundraiser events during the year, one can check them on the official RFL of SL blog.
Cancer has been known for ages – its name, for instance, comes from classical Greek and it is accepted that some ancient societies could distinguish between benign and malignant tumors. However, its epidemiology acquired a new significance during the 20th century, mainly (thought not only) because life expectancy grew and a number of infectious diseases like tuberculosis, smallpox or typhoid fever have had their importance reduced (but some of those illnesses are still a major concern in certain areas, especially in poorer countries). For many different kinds of cancer, the incidence is higher on older rather than on younger people. So, one can expect that, as the earth’s population gets older, mortality from cancer will increase (which does not mean, let’s be clear about it, that cancer only affects people above a certain age).
Treatment has also evolved, as we would expect with all the technical progress that humankind has seen in the latest two or three centuries. Particularly after the discovery of radioactivity, combined interventions (surgery, chemotherapy and radiation) have been developed to manage cancer.
Maybe because we live in an ageing society, maybe because many of us have been directly or indirectly been affected by that illness, maybe also because of the age profile of the SL residents – the fact is that it seems that people in SL care about cancer effects, the fight against the disease, the support for cancer patients and related subjects. The other day I read on someone’s profile that “RL doesn’t matter in SL”. I would say that this case shows, for the good and for the evil, that such a statement is not true. On the one hand, the disease has consequences to the av owners and, on the other hand, at least part of the SL public wants to do something about the theme, contributing to the American Cancer Society campaigns.
Back to the Memorial Garden, I sat there for a while, meditating in deep respect for all those whose pictures are there, and for those whose pictures are not shown there but who have left us after a battle against cancer. I hope they all have lived a good life. With love.