Why I’m Walking in the Relay for Life

Leukemia took my Uncle John in 1970.
Melanoma took his brother Otto in 1973.
Their sister, my Aunt Rena, died from stomach cancer in 1986.
Finally, lung cancer took their brother Larry – my dad – in 2008.

Four siblings out of seven. Four different kinds of cancer. Coincidence? Genetics? I don’t know. There are so many factors that can lead to cancer, it’s hard to say. But whether or not my family history has increased my personal risk of developing cancer, it has certainly increased my awareness of it – as have the battles that other friends and relatives have fought with cancer in recent years, some successfully, some not.

Fortunately, in the last couple of generations, tremendous progress has been made in expanding our understanding of cancer, and in developing increasingly effective methods for preventing, detecting, treating, and even curing it.

That progress has been made possible, in large part, by the work of the American Cancer Society.

So when Katie Collins suggested that some of us employees at the Gatehouse NEPA newspapers might want to field a team in this year’s Relay for Life and help raise some funds for the ACS, something inside me said, “Go for it.”

The ACS knows what it’s doing. It has been attacking cancer on all fronts for more than a century. Its first task was to bring cancer out of the shadows – as the article on the ACS in Wikipedia states, “At the time of founding, it was not considered appropriate to mention the word ‘cancer’ in public. Information concerning this illness was cloaked in a climate of fear and denial.” Now it not only funds research and publishes some of the most important academic journals in the field, it conducts public education campaigns and provides important resources both to patients and healthcare providers.

And here’s one of my favorite reasons to support ACS – it’s also been in the forefront of the battle against Big Tobacco, via programs like “The Great American Smokeout” and its educational outreach efforts to curb tobacco use among young people.

Is it perfect? No. There are some valid critiques of the organization, and goodness knows there is much more work to be done, for example in the area of identifying and preventing some of the environmental factors that cause cancer. But I can’t argue with its track record, and its ability to bring members of communities together against one of the most pernicious and widespread public health threats there is.

So please join us – consider walking with our team (the “Independent Eagles”!), get involved with another team, start your own – or just donate by clicking here.  Thanks for your support!

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