I was aware that today was World Cancer Day, however, I didn’t intend to write about it. I didn’t want to write about it. I hate cancer. I pushed the idea of doing anything or blogging about it away most of the day. And yet, the topic of cancer popped up over and over today, partly, I’m sure, because of the day of awareness.
Although my family has not been as hard hit as many have by this disease, we have not been untouched.
My sweet daddy passed away after a valiant two year battle with pancreatic cancer. That was almost six years ago. Greg’s brother Ray, my Grandma Mildred, my cousins Bill, Steven and Mindy, Uncle Dale…all succumbed to this disease as well. One of my clients, who is also my friend, just found out his young adult daughter has stage four glioblastoma. One does not have to look far to find someone affected by the ravages of cancer.
One of my favorite pictures of my dad, cuddling my daughter Adriel.
I reluctantly looked up info this afternoon, about World Cancer Day, which launched in 2000 with the purpose of raising awareness about cancer, promoting research to cure and prevent the disease, and improving treatment. This year’s theme is “We can, I can”.
Thankfully, there was good news from the American Cancer Society. There are 14.5 million people alive in the US who have or had cancer. And while individual cancer mortality rates vary, depending on the type, the five year survival rate for all US cancers diagnosed between 2005 – 2011 is 67%. That’s a 19 point increase since 1977.
The bad news is that 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year. The leading cancers are lung, breast, bowel and prostate.
World Cancer Day wants to continue shrinking the burden of cancer, according to its website. In keeping with its theme, organizers have suggested certain goals. Collectively, they said “we can” inspire action, create healthy environments, build a quality workforce and shape policy change. They suggested “I can” understand that early detection saves lives, support others, return to work and make healthy lifestyle choices.
For me to take a “head in the sand” approach to cancer serves no one, helps no one. I at last realized that my reluctance to recognize this day was a way to pretend that the disease doesn’t exist. My resistance clued me in to the fact that I was taking myself out of the flow. I don’t want to do that, or pretend any longer. I checked in with my friend, asking about his daughter. I researched what’s going on in cancer research, discovering there are some promising treatments and possible cures being developed.
And I found an awareness raising campaign, Talking Hands, in which this year’s motto is written on the palm and a photo taken. The pic is shared on social media with the hashtags, #WorldCancerDay and #WeCanICan. The photos will be collected on the worldcancerday.org site. I wrote on my palm with a purple marker, for my dad, because pancreatic cancer uses a purple awareness ribbon.
ESPN anchor Stuart Scott said, “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.”
My dad taught me the truth of this. My dad decided to live every day of his life, doing what he loved to do. Cancer didn’t win. Dad won. He also taught me that how you face death is as important as how you live your life. He faced his with courage and grace and even humor. And he loved us all through the experience, before he said goodbye. Thank you for such an amazing gift Dad. I love you. We can…I can…raise awareness…and beat cancer.