Today was the big race; the pink wigs, the survivor signs, and the “in memory of” signs. The Race for the Cure that started more than 20 years ago, with a promise between two sisters; and yet there is still no cure is in sight. Breast cancer continues to take our sisters, our friends, our daughters and our mothers. But for one day, this race symbolizes the survivor spirit that glows behind every woman.
This post is adapted from my newspaper column.
Cancer is that dark subject we try to avoid, especially when it comes to our own health. We’ve been know to delay scheduling that screening appointment because we’re just too busy. We believe that what we don’t know about can’t hurt us, so we stall, despite the public service announcements that clearly state, early detection saves lives.
On one day this month, our perspective will change. May 16th is the Komen Columbus Race for the Cure. This event give us a forum to honor and celebrate lives, and release our hope for someday finding a cure. The motivation we’ll need to give our time, buy the raffle tickets, run the race and give our dollars will come from within our hearts.When we reflect on the tragic ways cancer has touched our own lives, we can’t help but privately promise ourselves to eat better, find more time to exercise, and schedule those screening tests, whether they’re for skin, colon, or breast cancer. Knowledge truly is our power.
Ten years ago, I walked the race pushing a stroller with a friend. “I don’t need a mammogram,” she said. “My aunt died of breast cancer, and it skips a generation.”
No, it doesn’t, my friend. “When I call you Monday at lunchtime, give me the date and time of your first mammogram.” The conversation may not have happened, and the appointment may not have been made, if not for the time we shared at the race that day.
Out of all the uncertainties and unknowns that come with a cancer diagnosis, one thing is clear: treatment will be expensive. Global sales of cancer drugs will reach $80 billion by 2012, according to Norwalk, Conn.-based consultant IMS Health Inc. A 2006 survey conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, 33 percent of cancer patients have trouble paying medical bills and 43 percent report skipping treatments or not filling prescriptions because of the cost.
Statistics like these prompted Stefanie and Chris Spielman to create the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Patient Assistance, which allows families to buy groceries, nutritional supplements, Wendy’s gift cards, wigs and transportation to appointments.
On a global level, the cost of finding a cure for cancer is staggering. The reality that we still don’t understand what causes breast cancer led Dr. Susan Love to create www.armyofwomen.org. Her goal is to eradicate breast cancer by linking patients with research scientists and clinical trials. They’ve already created a low-cost band-aid-like test strip that indicates cancer risk.
The Spielmans hoped to raise $250,000 for breast cancer research, but have instead raised over $5 million — so far. The dollars allowed the creation of the Spielman Breast Cancer Tissue Archive Services and the Spielman Breast Cancer Tumor Bank that allow scientist to test discoveries on human breast cancers.
Cancer is a frightening disease that comes with little answers. Hope, sometimes, is all we have. Whether the medicine does its job or not, cancer always gives us the opportunity to show our love.