Thursday, August 11, 2016
Recently, the presidential nominees spoke at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, and through the whole process, both nominees talked about issues – some serious and some not at all – but neither of them even mentioned cancer and the toll this horrible disease is taking on our country and our world.
Cancer is not a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Conservative, Liberal, or Tea Party issue – it is a people issue. Either directly or indirectly, cancer touches all of us. 11,000 Americans die each week from cancer. That’s unacceptable. What’s worse is that these people do not live in a vacuum. They’re our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends, or in my case, my child, Teddi. Cancer in this country is as if one of the Twin Towers is falling every single day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Oftentimes, cancer does not just prematurely take one’s life; it seems to humiliate you in the process.
It is pretty hard to understand how we, as a country since 9/11, have given a blank check to protecting the homeland – to the tune of some 2-3 Trillion Dollars – but if you were to ask someone if they were more afraid of being attacked by a terrorist or going to the doctor and walking out with a diagnosis of cancer, I would venture to say that cancer is the bigger fear. And it is no surprise that people are in fear of cancer. If you are a woman, you have a one in three chance of being diagnosed with cancer in your lifetime, and if you are a man, your chances are one in two. Those are NOT very great odds.
I believe that these odds could be less daunting in the future if we were to reach our goal of cancer being a chronic illness that patients can live with and still have a decent quality of life, instead of it often being a terminal illness. When we started Cancer Mission 2020 with this goal in mind, we began with a very successful Cancer Summit, for which we brought together cancer patients, and some of the best doctors and cancer service agency representatives. Following that initial Cancer Summit, three additional Congressional Cancer Summits were held throughout Upstate New York, led by Congressman Tom Reed, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, and then Congresswoman Anne Marie Buerkle, who were instrumental in bringing awareness to the issues surrounding cancer. These meetings helped bring people together to share ideas on how to reach the common goal of finding a way to defeat cancer.
Out of these summits came the idea that the real answers to beating cancer were going to come from clinical trials. In the 1960’s and 70’s, parents were being told that their child did not have a high chance of surviving cancer. Today, with the advances made in research and technology, most parents are being told that their child has a good chance of surviving cancer, and while those children and families still have medical challenges, most of those children appear to have successfully beaten their cancer. If clinical trials are where the answers are going to come from, it is understandable why we are advocating for them. 65-70% of pediatric oncology patients are active in trials – which is a promising amount – however, the percentage of adults active in trials is 1-3 percent, which is significantly less. Ideally, the participation in clinical trials will only increase and the important information being discovered from these trials will hopefully help end the dreadful and terminal reign of cancer.
I was excited when earlier this year, President Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead the Cancer Moonshot effort. I had such hope that this would finally be more than just lip service and would lead to some true action being taken, and I was pleased to have been invited to, and attended the Regional Cancer Summit, held under the auspices of Cancer Moonshot, at the University of Rochester Medical Center. To show how much we in Upstate New York are dedicated to this effort, we presented close to 35,000 signatures to Congressman Tom Reed and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, which they in turn presented to Vice President Joe Biden.
It is sad how neither candidate took any bit of time during their lengthy speeches to talk about this important effort and share what they plan to do to help defeat cancer, or how they plan to work with Vice President Biden to ensure that this effort continues forward, for the good of all Americans, and people around the world. We can’t do it alone. It is time for everyone to stand up and be counted and use their voice and their power to vote to make sure that the nominees for President realize that cancer is something that is important to all Americans. We want more action and less talk. We need coordination and we need leadership, and it needs to start at the top, from the White House.
We have the means and the technology to be successful in this endeavor, but we all need to come together to make it happen. Here at Camp Good Days, we continue to collect signatures for our Cancer Mission 2020 Petition, which supports clinical trials, which are where the answers are going to come from. If you have not visited our Cancer Mission 2020 website, www.cancermission2020.org, I encourage you to do so, and to sign our petition, and then share it with you family, friends, colleagues, and co-workers. Join us in letting our current and future leaders know that we want finding the answer to cancer put on the front burner.
What greater gift could a President give those of us here in the United States, and people around the world, than the legacy of having made finding the answers to cancer a priority and successfully completing that Cancer Moonshot mission?