The American Reporter
St. Simons Island, Ga.
March 7, 2006
CANCER? RUN FOR YOUR LIFE
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Although we have had no immediate family tie to breast cancer. I've had both an aunt and a niece fall victim to it and in spite of excellent care, cannot be numbered among survivors.
In the early 1980s I worked for Dr. Bernard Fisher at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine. Dr. Fisher was truly a brilliant scientist who performed the first kidney transplant in the late fifties - and that was the first ever organ transplant. Clinical trials were being conducted then to study the efficacy of removing just the lump and not the entire breast to remove the tumor. This was Dr. Fisher's hypothesis and it was called a lumpectomy. At the five-year mark, the results proved this procedure was equally effective in removing the cancer and without any disfiguring - a fear that previously might delay a woman's seeing a doctor.
That was then, when one woman out of eleven would be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. And, this is now. Today, approximately one woman out of eight will get breast cancer in their lifetime. It's over twenty years since that exciting day when results were in and the future looked bright. Yes, it's true that early detection has helped to save lives. Some 97 percent of malignant breast tumors can be treated and patients reach the five-year mark placing them in the survivors' corner.
Foundations dedicated to raising money to fight this dread disease have done a wonderful job of promoting early detection. Women teach their daughters, remind their sisters, and examine themselves routinely. That's the biggest part of affecting a cure. We have knowledge based on race, for instance, telling us that 25 percent more white women than black get breast cancer, yet more black women than white die of the disease.
The question is, why? Why is this disease so often terminal? Studies are done and results announced. Could obesity cause this? Could early menstruation cause it later on? Diet? Environment? Genetic?
Women are doing all they can - fundraising is international and carried out with fervor, great effort and sincerity. These women don't just go door-to-door as we did in the fifties with the Mother's March against polio, these energetic women will go on a 3-day run of 60 miles, collecting sponsors for Breast Cancer Foundations.
The aunt and niece I mentioned came to mind last night as I watched a segment on The 78th Annual Academy Awards. In a series of overlapping clips from old black and white movies, I saw glimpses of actresses who left the scene too early. The list of celebrities is long and Ingrid Bergman was prominent among others.
They also mentioned Hattie McDaniel, who received an Oscar for her character, Mamie, in Gone with the Wind at a time blacks were sitting in the back of theaters. She died of breast cancer at age 57. Rosalind Russell. Susan Strasburg, 60, Joy Lansing, 44, Judy Holiday, 43. Paul McCartney's wife, Linda, aged 56. And just this morning we learn of non-smoker, Dana Reeves, the stalwart young wife of Christopher Reeves, dying of lung cancer after a long fight.
That's just a small sampling of those who fell victim to cancer; other cancers took Betty Grable, Elizabeth Montgomery, Bette Davis and so many more, including President Clinton's mother, Virginia Kelly, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Obviously, cancer makes no distinction between rich or poor, black or white, old or young, a youth either misspent or pampered. There doesn't appear to be any common denominator - not even smoker vs. non-smoker, although, of course, nicotine is discouraged since it's a known carcinogen.
This is one of those situations we deplore. We can't do a thing about the disease. Either we sit back and wait for something positive to happen or we lace up our running shoes and hit the road. Running 60 miles allows just enough time for thinking about all we have to be thankful for and to tell ourselves that in spite of the pain of sore muscles and shin splints, we enjoy running because it's something we can do.
We can run for our lives - and for the lives of those who can't run.