Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cancer Conundrum

Today I was invited to luncheon with the Canadian Cancer Society as a thank you for the many years of monthly donations I have contributed towards cancer research. It was held at the Royal York, and the customary rubber chicken was served along with some sad steamed vegetables and a few pastries for dessert. There was also a plate of sliced fruit (which G tells me actually comes from a bag) and tea and coffee.

The speakers spoke about the impact our donations make in Cancer research. They spoke of dramatically improving the quality of life while patients undergo radiation therapy. Higher rates of "cure". But the final key note speaker went right for the jugular with a plea on behalf of children with cancer.

The whole lunch left me oscilating between pulling out my cheque book, and pulling my support entirely.

I will try to sum up in point form.

1.) Kids with cancer. Children are now getting cancer more frequently, and while 80% are being treated to the point of being "cancer free", 20% cannot be saved. But it's only a recent phenomenom that kids get cancer in the first place. Cancer used to be something "old" people got -- a disease commonly associated with aging. So shouldn't we be more concerned about things like pre-fab baby forumla? Bisphenol A in our bottles (or whatever other chemical you care to list)? The idea that a trip to McDonald's is a "treat"? I'm by no means a scientist, but to me it seems like humans as a species are a weaker set because of the crappy things we eat, the way we throw medication at everything, and our propensity to treat symptoms instead of always striving towards optimal health. It's no wonder our next generations aren't getting a fair shake.

2.) Our meal. Here we are sitting at a luncheon, hearing the story of a breast cancer survivor, and yet nowhere on the table was there a cancer-fighting food. Where were the green leafy vegetables? Even a glass of red wine? And that chicken had better have been free-range because otherwise that's a whole other story. See Food Inc. to clear the air on chicken farming. Plus, our desserts (except for the fruit) were full of white sugars, flour, and dairy products, likely from cows with too much growth hormone. Should have ordered the vegan option. We're only beginning to realize now how our conventional diets have played into all kinds of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and of course, Cancer.

3.) Cancer is not the enemy. Cancer is not the cause. Cancer is the EFFECT. They said every three minutes in Canada, someone is diagnosed with Cancer. There's more and more cancer because our environment, our diets, and our lifestyles are becoming more and more polluted. They said something like $48 million dollars was raised by the Canadian Cancer Society last year. Imagine if just some of that money was put into subsidizing organic farming. Or community centres, or awareness campaigns about how we really are what we eat. Even bike lanes, and green spaces to encourage people to cut down on their driving and their "screen-time" (honestly the fact that that's even become a term is just scary.)

4.) Cancer Care. At the same time that I gripe about all the points above, I've seen firsthand too many times what Cancer can do -- both to patients and their families. And I am so grateful for the work of the Canadian Cancer Society in their efforts to make the whole experience even one iota less hellish. Because big changes don't happen overnight, and you don't need a crystal ball to know that Cancer is going to be with us for a while yet. So having things like volunteer drivers to get you to your chemo treatments, or doctors who care about the mucositis that comes with treatment in children, or nurses to pray and cry with you, or researchers trying to figure out how to keep treatment-abandonment down in El Salvador are all super valuable to me.

So I guess at the end of this rant, I want to say thank you to Cancer researchers, nurses and doctors for the difference you've made in the lives of my loved ones, and strangers I'll never come to know. I know I said I might pull my support, but as long as there's cancer, I'll keep doing whatever I can to do something.

If you want to help, visit the Canadian Cancer Society online, or consider supporting my Ride to Conquer Cancer.

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