For those of you who lived through the 1980’s, you may remember that TV commercials often used jingles to get their point across. These quirky tunes would get stuck in your head for days. Being named Libby, I was particularly aware of the canned food commercial that touted “Libby, Libby, Libby on the Label, Label, Label, …” I won’t go on because to this day, it still makes me cringe. I actually got kicked off the school bus in kindergarten for beating up a boy who was teasing me with that song. Fortunately, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate my unique name.
I guess this had something to do with the unique name of my non-profit organization- Help the Hoo-Hahs. I’ve become accustomed to the quizzical looks and questions, and I actually embrace the chance to explain. Our mission is to bring awareness to gynecological cancers and to promote a greater understanding of warning signs, available screening, and prevention options. We help to provide support and financial assistance to women and families affected by cancer of the reproductive system.
I fully understand that our name alone may not explain our purpose. Hopefully, if you see our logo you get a better sense of what we’re all about. However, I recently encountered a critic who felt our name was inappropriate, because she felt we were making light of a serious issue. Just as I bristled at the criticism of my name as a child, I felt that same defensiveness for the name of my organization.
I politely replied to the critic that she could rest assured that I am more than aware of the seriousness of GYN cancers. I survived invasive cervical cancer at age 33 even after doctors had removed all of those parts unique to me as a woman. I have also survived the recent death of my mother from primary peritoneal cancer (a rare form of ovarian cancer). There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the seriousness of GYN cancers.
In her defense, I could have named my organization something different. However, I chose the name for many reasons. I’ve heard the term “Hoo-Hah” many times (I work with pregnant women every day) and I liked the idea of this colloquial term to describe the “below the belt” region for women. Plus, I wanted a term that described all the types of GYN cancers. Although I have no qualms with using correct anatomical terms, I know that many people are not as comfortable. In time, I hope that changes, but for now, I’m just happy we’re having the conversation and spreading awareness. I also realize that laughter is one of the reasons I have survived the last three years and if our organization’s name brings a smile to someone, that’s just a bonus.
I am happy to say that most people I have encountered have liked our name. I’ve received countless thank-you messages from women (like me) who were frustrated about the silence surrounding GYN cancers. I’m also incredibly proud that our little organization has raised over $95,000 and helped many local women. I said from the start that I wanted our name and cause to go global and in some ways, my dream has come true. Our 5th Annual 5K Walk/Run is now part of a global racing event to end women’s GYN cancers (www.globeathon.com). We may not be as big as Komen, but I'm OK with that. I'm proud that we are a 100% volunteer organization and all the proceeds go to community education and to the women who need it!
At the end of the day, I also like the idea that our organization is unique. You know, they say that as we get older, we start turning into our parents. Well, I guess like my Mom, I now appreciate the importance of a unique name. I am thankful to her for my name, and for her courage that I thankfully inherited.
September is National GYN Cancer Awareness Month and you can help take a step to end women’s cancers by registering for our 5K, volunteering, or making a tax-deductible donation. To learn more, please visit www.helpthehoohahs.org
Libby Hull Malphrus
Founder, Help the Hoo-Hahs