Cancer is a very, very complicated disease. There’s a chance that every one of you reading this has lost someone you know to this terrifying battle – whether it be a neighbor, a friend, or a family member. For me, it was my Mom. This year marks the tenth since the disease took her from our family, and while it never stops hurting, it’s even harder to come to terms with the fact that there’s still no cure. Certain diseases and illnesses can be preventable, but cancer? Cancer hits you when you least expect it.
That being said, it’s important to remember not to be pessimistic – after all, there’s constant research being done to help change the outcome of the disease.
For example, let me introduce you to Brian Liversidge. In 2004, he was diagnosed with having aggressive prostate cancer, and he was given 18 months to live. However – 9 years later – he’s still here.
Liversidge underwent five different forms of therapy in this time, which prolonged his life. That being said, the different side effects were no picnic for the father of two (and grandfather of three!)
“There are side-effects with every drug you take and sometimes it is hard to separate these from the cancer’s symptoms. Sometimes I have felt so bad that I have asked to be taken off my treatment,” he said. However, knowing that he was key in figuring out a cure - and knowing that his sons might inherit the disease someday in their lifespan – has kept him strong.
Prior to, most cancer was tamed by chemotherapy – but based on how toxic the chemotherapy drugs could be, they could only be administered for a few weeks to try and rid the cancerous tumors. By unraveling the structure of the 23,000 genes in the human body, scientists have since pinpointed around 150 genes which specific mutations turn into cancer-causing agents. The discovery of these genes helped scientists pinpoint oncogenes (or, a gene that can transform a cell into a tumor cell) and block their actions – which means that they’d be targeting cancer cells, but not cells from healthy tissue.
The drug that’s been created, called Vemurafenib, has improved and extended the lives of many skin cancer patients, but it’s no miracle. After awhile, the drug fails to respond to the cancer. (But if it makes a few people feel great and gain a few extra months, it’s definitely a big improvement.)
Scientists are currently looking into curing cancer similarly to how they successfully combated HIV a few years ago – by simultaneously giving a patient several different drugs, each targeting a different genetic pathway in the cancer. Again – remember Brian Liversidge? If anything, he should be proof that we’re getting and closer to our goal – and sometimes final “sentences” aren’t necessarily the truth.
While this is all good news, here are some facts that might be a little unsettling: A 2010 study by the National Cancer Institute estimated that the amount of money Americans spend on cancer treatment each year would increase 27 percent between then and 2020, to reach a staggering $158 billion per year. And this year alone, an estimated 1,660,290 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States. Hopefully with the research mentioned prior, the cure will happen sooner than later – but if you want to help and support the cause in the meantime, here’s a few ways you can help.
Consider joining the Relay for Life, which is a community fundraising walk that celebrates cancer survivors, who get the privilege of taking the first lap around the track. As part of the American Cancer Society, the relay is a chance for nearly 4 million people around the globe to raise funds and awareness for the cause.
Also consider a donation to Stand Up To Cancer, which was founded in 2008. Since forming, the organization has raised over $262 Million to try and eradicate cancer. The SU2C crew has ten scientific “Dream Teams” that compete against cancer, instead of each other, in hopes of finding a cure.
In the meantime, Gigglers – if you, personally, are fighting with the loss of a parent or loved one due to this horrific disease and need someone to talk to, feel free to drop me a line. The best resources I had during my own struggle were friends who also understood.