This story is being published on a special day for me: the one year anniversary of being diagnosed with one of the leukemias and plunged into the world of blood cancer treatment. It’s been an eye-opening journey, including learning that ten times as many adults as children are diagnosed with leukemia each year.
The first thing I learned is that new advances in cancer treatment – led by my rare form of leukemia – are changing the “war” and enabling people to live full lives with conditions that used to be fatal. Known as "targeted cancer therapy," these advances focus on molecular changes specific to cancer, can be more effective than other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, are less harmful to normal cells and are less harmful overall for patients. This is great news, full of hope for millions of people. (For details see http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/targeted)
Another key learning is that cancer is colorblind. I’ve been blessed by the support of a wide circle of old and new friends active in cancer advocacy; people who freely share resources for the benefit of others. Cancer is a group of more than 100 diseases, and those of us with any one of these diseases have a lot of the same fears, concerns, needs and real world issues that come with this diagnosis.
Today more people are living with cancer than are dying from it. In the U.S. alone there are some 11 million survivors and there will be about 20 million people living with a history of cancer by 2020. Many will have more than one form of cancer. Many will have been diagnosed as children, had successful treatment and have lived most of their lives with cancer issues. All have special needs and all deserve support.
I decided to write this because it’s September, a time when many cancer survivors are cringing as “pink” retailers and fund raisers start their warm-up for October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. These aggressive efforts are often tied to commercial brands and product sales that have nothing to do with cancer support. Sometimes they are even attached to products known to cause cancer.