This is the third year I am writing about World Cancer Day, as someone WITH cancer. World Cancer Day is recognized today, February 4th, as a day to raise awareness of the currently 8.2 million people who die from cancer worldwide every year. Out of those, 4 four million people die prematurely, between the ages of 30 and 69 years old. The goal of World Cancer Day is to “get as many people as possible around the globe to talk about cancer” on this day. To that I say, #GAMEON.
This time two years ago I was preparing for a Stem Cell Transplant, which was going to rob me of my immune system – and my hair – but also what my doctors (and many in the Myeloma community) believe was my best chance at achieving and maintaining remission. Here I am, two years later and I have enjoyed many successes in this fight.
I am in remission.
I have gotten ELEVEN consecutive “zeros” (aka negative M spikes).
But the biggest news for me (well today at least). Last night? I. MADE. A. PONYTAIL.
Allow me to digress for just a minute by saying that I HEART PONYTAILS. Before I stopped working, when I was a full-time working mom, ponytails were a lifesaver. I took for granted my ability to throw my hair into a sloppy ponytail or bun as I jetted off to work each morning or to one of the kid’s many activities. I never imagined that I would find myself having to MISS a ponytail.
Life with cancer has changed for me in many ways and this is just one example. Some may read this and think it’s a trivial and frivolous example. But I’m guessing anyone who thinks that probably hasn’t been in my shoes, or the shoes of those of us who have lost our hair. Cancer has been tough in many, MANY ways. And believe it or not, I would put losing my hair towards the top of that list.
Sorry…back to World Cancer Day.
What is interesting to me is that last year my Facebook feed was FLOODED with posts about World Cancer Day. People posting on social media as a key way to get people thinking about and talking about cancer, to raise awareness of this dreadful disease. This year? My Facebook feed is filled all day, EVERY DAY, with hateful – and often contradictory – political updates. I just took a quick scan – there were THREE posts about World Cancer Day on my feed today. I think – actually I KNOW – we can do better.
There are many ways to get involved both today and beyond. I put forward a challenge last year, asking us to do more than click a “like” button on Facebook. I know many local kids (including my own) who are “braving the shave” again this year for the amazing St. Baldrick’s Organization. Any donation amount, big or small, is always greatly appreciated. Perhaps you can call a loved one who is a survivor – or the family member of someone who has lost their fight Or it could be as simple as stopping for a minute and putting KINDNESS out into the world because, if cancer teaches us anything, it’s that life is short. Perhaps instead of treating our friends and family with contempt we could try to give one another the benefit of the doubt. Try assuming that we ALL want what is best for our families, our communities and our country even if we don’t necessarily agree on the best ways – or person – to do that.
While World Cancer Day is a great day to put an EXTRA emphasis on those who have fought or are fighting this beast, we can all agree more can be done. The World Cancer Day website has some great suggestions but really it’s about doing what will resonate for YOU. Donate your money or time, make a meal for someone who is sick. Better yet, just call, text or email someone you know is in the throes of this fight. It can make a world of difference.
Until next time, #gameon
Some staggering statistics:
- There were an estimated 14.1 million cancer cases around the world in 2012, of these 7.4 million cases were in men and 6.7 million in women. This number is expected to increase to 24 million by 2035.
- Lung cancer was the most common cancer worldwide contributing 13% of the total number of new cases diagnosed in 2012.
- Breast cancer (women only) was the second most common cancer with nearly 1.7 million new cases in 2012.
- Colorectal cancer was the third most common cancer with nearly 1.4 million new cases in 2012.
- In 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people were projected to die from the disease.
- The most common cancers in 2016 were a
- breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rectum cancer, bladder cancer, melanoma of the skin, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, thyroid cancer, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, leukemia, endometrial cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
- The number of new cases of cancer (cancer incidence) is 454.8 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2008-2012 cases).
- The number of cancer deaths (cancer mortality) is 171.2 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2008-2012 deaths).
- Cancer mortality is higher among men than women (207.9 per 100,000 men and 145.4 per 100,000 women). It is highest in African American men (261.5 per 100,000) and lowest in Asian/Pacific Islander women (91.2 per 100,000). (Based on 2008-2012 deaths.)
- The number of people living beyond a cancer diagnosis reached nearly 14.5 million in 2014 and is expected to rise to almost 19 million by 2024.
- Approximately 39.6 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes (based on 2010-2012 data).
- National expenditures for cancer care in the United States totaled nearly $125 billion in 2010 and could reach $156 billion in 2020.