As Camp Good Days ends its 37th year of providing programs, I find myself thinking about where we have come as an organization, and about the progression of the medical industry in treating and diagnosing children and adults with cancer. There have been improvements, but in order to keep moving forward, there needs to be support from our leaders. It is frustrating that, during this time when we, as a country, are deciding on our next president, there have been a large number of debates where a whole host of issues have been talked about, but unfortunately cancer hasn’t been one of them. There was talk about the Zika Virus, immigration, poverty, and terrorism, which are all important topics, but 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. It should be one of the most important topics. Either directly or indirectly, cancer touches all of us. 11,000 Americans die each week from cancer. That’s unacceptable. 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. It is hard to understand how so many families that are touched by cancer seem to be so underrepresented. These families have valiantly fought with this disease, their family members going through the most potent treatments medical science can come up with, and I don’t think our elected officials are fighting for them.
Our leaders need to let us know
how they are going to find answers.
There is no question that we have the technology, scientists, and
researchers to find information, but there is no coordinated effort. We need money and leadership to help us find
the way to win the war on cancer, and that leadership needs to come from
Washington. The President needs to
appoint a Cabinet level position, whose job is to bring people together to
coordinate efforts and information. I
was excited when President Obama started Cancer Moonshot, and selected Vice
President Joe Biden to lead the program—the last time a president had done
anything in a major way regarding cancer was President Nixon when he declared
war on cancer in the 70’s. Where we have
made the most progress is in certain forms of pediatric cancer. As recently as the 1960’s and 70’s, these
cancers were almost always fatal. Today,
children diagnosed with these forms of cancer have an 80% chance of being long
term survivors, and not in the traditional sense, where they could live five
years from the date of diagnosis, or two years off of any kind of treatment, but
can actually grow to be a ripe old age.
And while these children and families still have medical challenges,
most of them appear to have successfully beaten their cancer.
Clinical trials are where the answers are
going to come from, and we, as a country, need to increase the participation in
trials. We need money to support trials,
and we need physicians to stay up to date on information from clinical trials
so they can share the information with their patients. 65-70% of pediatric oncology patients in the
United States are active in trials; however, the percentage of adults active in
trials is 1-3 percent. Hopefully, 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.
We need support for these trials from our leaders; we need them to put
finding the cure to cancer on the forefront.
We are blessed here, in upstate
New York, to have Republican Congressman Tom Reed and Democratic Congresswoman
Louise Slaughter advocating for Cancer Mission 2020. They are committed to helping Cancer Mission
2020 be successful and committed to helping end the deadly reign of
cancer. Recently, Congressman Reed and
Congresswoman Slaughter came to the office where we presented them with close
to 40,000 signatures to give to Vice President Joe Biden, to show how much we
are in support of finding the answers to end cancer. If a Republican and a Democrat can come
together to support the same mission, there is no reason others can’t stand up
and support. 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. I urge my fellow citizens to make smart decisions when entering the
polls this year; remember that our future president needs to be committed to
finding a way to end cancer. We need to show our leaders our desperation and
frustration before someone you love or care about is affected by cancer. Let’s let our voices be heard, we can’t wait
any longer. Everyone needs to stand up and be counted.