Still Kickin: How one couple’s favorite T-shirt is fighting cancer and replacing cancer memes

Posted on: 11/12/14

Social media is awash with causes to support. Kickstarters, honorary days and months, and awareness campaigns are all part of our daily digital consciousness. However numerous they may be, these social campaigns can make a big difference within our local circle of friends—and thanks to the Internet—far beyond.

One such notable campaign is the Still Kickin t-shirt, created by Aaron Purmort, with help from his wife Nora and their friends, in response to Aaron’s battle with brain cancer. Using a refreshing mix of honesty, humor, and true emotion, the loving couple has brought their moving story to a much larger community.

Aaron and Nora had known each other peripherally for several years, but when they finally met in person, their romance grew quickly and definitively. A connection fostered during the early days of Twitter eventually led to an extended first date, full of un-ironic Taylor Swift praise and in-jokes, after which they quickly became inseparable.

Then, on a Halloween day a few years ago, Aaron had a seizure. Coincidentally (or not), he was wearing a bright green t-shirt emblazoned with the words STILL KICKIN. The seizure led to the discovery of a brain tumor, quickly accelerating Aaron and Nora’s relationship. While faced with the reality of an all-encompassing fight with cancer, a newfound urgency was placed upon their time spent together. The two were drawn closer than ever, and quickly married and started a family, all while dealing with brain surgery and chemotherapy.

During this whirlwind time fraught with emotion and life-changing moments, Nora began cataloguing her experiences with her blog My Husband’s Tumor. Laying her psyche bare, the blog is a captivating look at how cancer has changed their family in all manner of ways. “There is so much beauty and honor in witnessing our lives fully, in keeping our eyes open even during the sad and scary times,” she writes poignantly.

The blog, in turn, has helped turn Aaron’s STILL KICKIN t-shirt into a symbol of their persistence to keep moving forward. A treasured thrift store find, the Nora-described “top drawer” t-shirt was brought out only occasionally, and happened to be what Aaron was wearing during his first seizure. The smart and punchy design of the shirt matches their fearless attitude toward living their lives day-by-day, and sharing their story with the world.

A long-time dream of Aaron’s has been to sell reproductions of the shirt to benefit cancer research, and it has finally came to fruition this year. They are selling the shirt online, and after selling over 1,000 shirts and breaking Cotton Bureau records, a second and third run recently became available for purchase. Supporters can model the shirt with a selfie – Instagram photos tagged #stillkickinthis appear on the Still Kickin website, thanks to a simple and effective IFTTT recipe.

The couple has seen the shirt bring people together—family and friends, friends of friends, online followers, doctors and nurses, and strangers alike, clearly showing widespread solidarity. With a deeply moving display of positivity, its stands starkly against the depersonalized, hollow messaging of “cancer memes,” where 1-click Facebook shares substitute for real, accountable action.

Sales of the shirts help reduce the Purmort’s medical expenses, with the appropriate qualification, “Dudes, cancer is frigging EXPENSIVE.”  Proceeds also go to the Musella Foundation For Brain Tumor Research & Information – a part of the first online support group dedicated to brain tumors, the foundation has given out over a million dollars to people in similar need as the Purmorts, as well as paving the way for tumor research and medications that have been vital to Aaron’s treatment.

For a closer look into the Purmort’s lives, watch this trailer for an upcoming documentary following the couple, titled a&n:

Addendum: Since the publishing of this post, Aaron’s condition has changed drastically, and he has chosen to enter hospice. A fundraiser has been set up by Nora’s sister, with contributions going to directly to the Purmorts.

You can donate here:

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