There has been much confusion and debate recently regarding healthcare reform, but the one thing that is obvious is that cancer is quickly becoming the NUMBER ONE KILLER in this country and the world! Right now, if you are 85 years old or younger, cancer is the leading cause of death. More than 564,000 Americans will lose their battle to cancer this year and over the course of the next 14 months, more Americans will die from cancer than were lost in all of the military conflicts of the 20th Century. It is as if one of the twin towers is falling every single day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In fact, one of every three women and one of every two men will face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. Those who are battling cancer and losing that battle do not live in a vacuum, they are our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, grandparents, and as in my case, our children.
They say that timing is everything. Earlier this year, President Obama became the first President since Richard Nixon in 1971, to state that cancer is a disease that touches all of us and WE CAN DEFEAT IT IN OUR LIFETIME! Following his speech, I contacted my Congressman, Eric J.J. Massa, of the 29th Congressional District, and shared with him that now was the time, as the President had opened the door. I am so pleased that on Monday, June 22, 2009, we held the first CANCER SUMMIT at the Camp Good Days and Special Times’ Recreational Facility, where we brought together some of the best doctors, nurses, support service representatives, and cancer patients from the 29th Congressional District. Our special guest was Dr. Brian Monahan, Attending Physician for the United States Congress and United States Supreme Court. Dr. Monahan holds the rank of Rear Admiral and was formerly Director of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the National Naval Medical Center. Everyone left the Cancer Summit feeling good and committed to moving forward with new ideas. We are now in the process of developing the model for other Congressional Districts to use in holding similar Cancer Summits.
This effort requires all of us to help and the one thing that each person can do is stand up and say that we do not want our loved ones taken any longer by this devastating disease - a disease that not only takes so many lives, but seems to humiliate those suffering in the process. When they look back at how we treated cancer, it will be seen as nothing short of barbaric. The options are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, which is nothing more than poison. It is time that all of us reach out to our network of family, friends, colleagues, and co-workers, and as Americans, contact our representatives with the message that although there is much to be done, we want them to take some of the money (our money) and use it on something that will have an impact now, and in the future will actually save some lives.
I have always believed that government should be there to do the things that people can’t do for themselves. I can’t find the cure for cancer – I need the government’s help. The government should be the funder for research. In this new effort to find the answers, we should look at what has proven successful in the past, with research on some childhood cancers. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s, some forms of childhood leukemia were nearly 100% fatal, but today, those diagnosed with certain forms of childhood leukemia are given an 80% chance of becoming a long-term survivor, and will hopefully go on to live a long and prosperous life. As long-term survival of some childhood cancers is a new phenomenon, we need to follow these success stories for the rest of their lives.
More than 60% of pediatric cancer patients are involved in clinical trials – and that is where the answers are found. It is estimated that only 3 % of adults dealing with cancer are involved in clinical trials. The government should be providing more research opportunities and better educational resources for doctors, as well as sharing information about clinical trials with adult patients.
Currently, the largest amount of research funding is coming from the large pharmaceutical companies and information and results are highly confidential because if research proves to be successful it provides substantial benefit to the stockholders, but should the results prove unsuccessful and word gets out, this will have a negative impact on the company’s stock. However, research that is unsuccessful can be just as important as that which succeeds because it provides additional knowledge and learning.
The laws need to be changed! We need to eliminate the obstacle of patients losing their health insurance coverage because of their participation in clinical trials. In addition, if the government funds the war on cancer, the information will be public and the results will be available to all. We, the taxpayers, will then be the direct beneficiaries of the research investments, efforts and results.
There is still much to be done and it starts with each of us committing to become a soldier in this war on cancer. Please take a few moments to write to your representatives and tell them to take the President at his word and to take the steps to secure the funds necessary to create a Manhattan Project to look at cancer and to finally appoint a much-needed Cancer Czar to help coordinate this effort so that finally the right hand will know what the left hand is doing.
For a copy of the 29th Congressional District Cancer Summit Special Report, please contact Camp Good Days at 585-624-5555 or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.