Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The fight against colon cancer continues

I received this letter in my email today, from Tim Turnham, CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. I wanted to share it with you, to make you aware that the fight against colorectal cancer is ongoing and will continue to be, until the battle is won and a cure is found.

Dear John,

A woman called me a few days ago. She was diagnosed stage IV when she was 40. She did everything right-followed all the suggestions and all the guidelines, tried to be the good cancer patient. Along the way, she lost her job. Then she lost her insurance. Now the doctor says her blood work is worrisome and she needs a PET scan. The reality is simple--she can't afford it. She has two small children and doesn't know what to say to them.

The Colon Cancer Alliance was started by a group of volunteers with a shared vision: end the suffering caused by colorectal cancer. Over the years, CCA has grown steadily as the product of passion, sweat, tears, and a lot of hard work. Tens of thousands of people have found hope, education, support, empowerment through the programs and services of CCA. Some of you reading this today have been with us from the beginning-thank you! I cannot tell you how proud I am to be part of an organization with this amazing record of accomplishment.

Having said that, I must also say this--we need to do more.

Another woman, another call. She is a two-time breast cancer survivor. Her father died of leukemia, and her sister died of colon cancer. She had a colonoscopy several years ago, but is well past due for another one. She has insurance, but can't afford the $250 co-pay required to get the test done.

How is it possible that a mother of young children has to worry about her cancer coming back, but can't afford to go see her doctor? How is it possible that a two-time cancer survivor must live with the uncertainty of a third battle, simply because the co-pay is too much?

We need to do more. We owe it to these two women, and to the countless others like them, to do more, to be better.

Here is my pledge to you, and to those two patients who called me: We at CCA will do whatever it takes to beat this evil beast called colorectal cancer.

At times this will mean being a bit funny, a bit edgy. Like launching a 5k event in which we give out boxer shorts instead of t-shirts. (If you haven't checked out the Undy 5000, do it now and register today!)

At times it will mean being blunt. Like creating a scratch-off card that starts with the question "Do you want to die of colon cancer? Scratch off YES or NO.

"The "whatever it takes" part may not be to everyone's liking. Some people prefer a safe, quiet approach. I understand that. But I have become convinced that for the sake of the 150,000 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year we can no longer afford to be safe, or quiet. We must risk offending some people in order to break through the complacency and silence that is resulting in so much sickness and death.

The point is this. Walking a 5k event in your boxers is not offensive. Getting people's attention by asking if they want to die is not offensive. Watching more than 100 people die every day of a cancer they never should have had-that is offensive.

The second leading cause of cancer death among men and women in this country is almost completely preventable, but we have not found the moral outrage to turn around our appalling screening statistics--that is offensive.

So this is it-whatever it takes. If we have to shout it from the tops of buildings, or take to the streets in our boxers, that is what we will do. And if we offend some people, so be it. I cannot imagine looking at a patient going through chemotherapy and saying, "I'm sorry you didn't get the message about screening. We had some ideas to get the word out, but we were afraid we would offend someone."

It is my fervent hope and belief that as we dare to take this path, the path of courage and hope, that you will walk it with us. Together--I am convinced--we can change the world.

Tim Turnham

I am proud to say that I am fortunate enough, through great care and support, to have beaten colon cancer. But there are others who need our help. If you want to learn more about colorectal cancer and what you can do to help beat down this disease and help others to do so like I did, contact your local chapter of the American Cancer Society or the Colon Cancer Alliance, at http://www.ccalliance.org. They will be glad to tell you everything you'll need to know, to help someone who needs it.

Thank you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You know John that was very sad to read. Here we sit in what’s known to be “the richest country” in the world and yet we cannot or will not even take care of our own people. I think it’s horrible when those commercials come on and you see the kid’s hungry and living in dirt, it’s a shame that they have to live in a country like that but you know what …. I turn the station the second I hear “for only …..” It sounds harsh but I believe we need to take care of OUR OWN before some third world country. We can spend billions upon billions for a war, and we spend $4.30 cents a gallon (that’s cheap in town) for gas while the CEO of the oil/gas company’s take in a six digit paycheck. I have to say KUDOS to Canada … at least they take care of their people, that nation covers all medical coverage for everyone. USA WATCH CANADA AND LEARN. STOP FEEDING THIRD WORLD COUNTRYS AND START TAKING CARE OF OUR OWN PEOPLE! Times when I read something like this I don’t want to say I am ashamed of the USA but it definitely holds a black cloud over our heads.

Yeah I said it!

Rob St.Helen
Portland, Oregon!

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