Tuesday 20 March 2018

Cancer survivor becomes subject of 'humiliating, hurtful' meme

Clare Cullen

Clare Cullen

A Cancer survivor's Instagram post is reminding people that the pictures that turn into memes belong to real people, with real feelings.

Leon Mitchell(31) posted on Instagram after a photo of his face was used in a meme called 'Meth Stephen Curry'.

Years of treatment for a rare cancer called nasopharyngeal carcinoma (cancer of the head and neck) have taken their toll on Mitchell's appearance, meaning his neck and shoulders are more frail than they otherwise would be.

In December 2015, a photo of Mitchell went viral because of his resemblance to basketball player Stephen Curry. Mitchell's frail neck was the butt of the joke, with users joking that the picture of Mitchell was a picture of Stephen Curry on methamphetamine.

He took to his Instagram account to address the "not-so-funny" meme.

"The fact that the meme was posted was a reminder of how distasteful and cruel people can be without background knowledge of the person in the bullseye of the target".

"I’ve struggled deeply for years with the devastating effects cancer treatment plagued my body with. The massive destruction it took on my neck, shoulders, nose, throat, and ability to function normally".

"I am more then a meme, I am a father, husband, survivor, mentor, community advocate, and Positive motivational speaker. Proud to have endured and conquered everything I have!"

Speaking to Buzzfeed, Mitchell said the meme was "embarrassing, humiliating, and a bit hurtful".

"I’ve struggled for years and still do from time to time with my outward physical appearance. I was confused as to how it even made its way onto the internet honestly".

Mitchell's Instagram post has itself gone viral, with people reminding each other that "people used in memes are real people with stories".

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