Monday, June 20, 2011

Why Donations are Critical in the Fight Against Cancer

Actress Dana Delany gave a moving tribute to her father and friend, Stand Up To Cancer co-founder Laura Siskin, this weekend in The Huffington Post.
She describes how cancer took her father’s life in 1981 and just recently, Siskin, an accomplished Hollywood producer whose Stand Up organization has already raised $200 million for cancer research. Delany, who was at the first  Stand Up TV program in 2008,  laments the fact that decades after her father’s death, some 75 percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are dead within a year.
Then she makes a plea for people to donate in honor of somebody at the Stand Up To  Cancer website to continue to raise money for cancer research.

I second that idea.
Laura Laughlin at Relay for Life
Donations -- whether they are to the Stand Up fund, the American Cancer Society, Susan G.. Komen for the Cure, or any of the cancer-specific fundraising organizations -- help fund research. 
And I firmly believe that is why I am alive today.
I routinely tell people who have just been diagnosed with cancer, “Be glad you are living in these times.”
We’ve come so far from the days when folks were afraid to say “cancer” out loud (they called it “the big C”), we’ve evolved our approach from fear to fight. And now any diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence.
It would have been for me a decade or two ago. But, thanks to research, the medical profession has expanded their tools to battle all types of cancer. When I was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of lymphoma six years ago, doctors knew exactly how to treat it, with a specific treatment plan and a specific type of chemo.
They have made leaps and bounds in dealing with the effects of chemotherapy and have a variety of anti-nausea drugs to pick from. Many tolerate the treatment well. While it’s still difficult, it doesn’t have to be a life-halting treatment. I know a friend who continued to work during her treatment and never let on to coworkers that she was battling cancer.

And when my cancer returned a year after I thought it was gone, my oncologists knew exactly which protocol to use, preparing me for a stem cell transplant, which
my lead doctor said was my “only hope for a cure.”
A nurse later expressed surprise that he had used that “c” word. I clung to that.
Three years after that transplant, I am cancer free. Many friends have made donations to Stand Up To Cancer in my name, have raised money in my honor through the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life, or have contributed to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at my urging.
Ironically, I got involved with the LLS years ago, when a friend of mine died of lymphoma and my father was diagnosed as well. (He, I’m happy to say, has a non-aggressive form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and is living an active life 14 years after his diagnosis.) I contributed to friends who have run the LLS annual marathon over the years.
I became chairman of my neighborhood effort to raise money during LLS’s annual fundraising drive.
When I became sick with lymphoma, I was too ill to perform my chair duties.
But our family continued to make donations to LLS. And to the American Cancer Society as friends and relatives continue to Relay for Life. Two years, I walked the survivors lap to kick off the race in our local Relay, but I also raised money. 
I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but to underline the importance of giving what you can and continuing to give. Perhaps someday you will be the beneficiary of miraculous strides in the cancer wars.
Research is vital to fighting this horrible disease. For my non-Hodgkins lymphoma, the LLS  spent $16 million out of the $72 million spend last fiscal year total on research. Over the years, this research has helped develop new and better chemotherapy drugs. One of those was Rituxan for use on non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a drug that was part of my chemo cocktail. The society says that drug alone has raised the survival rates to double what they once were for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients.
To all those people before me who contributed to charities that supported this research, I thank you. While we are far from eradicating cancer, we are on the right path. I am living proof.

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