Fighting cancer: Checkups, second opinions and hope prolong lives
The Kansas City Star
Hundreds of phone calls, letters and email have brought a lot of support since I underwent surgery a year ago to rid my body of prostate cancer.
Many people I’ve known for years and new acquaintances have opened up about their own battles with cancer. One man’s physician said, “There are two kinds of men: those who have prostate cancer and those who will eventually get prostate cancer.”
Cindy Wissinger, who was with Cancer Action in Overland Park, urges more people to seek preventive care for all cancers.
“Unfortunately, everyone has been, or will be touched by cancer during their lifetime, either directly or indirectly,” she wrote. “Cancer does not discriminate, and it knows no boundaries.”
Heartfelt words from women and men often begin: “I, too, am a survivor.” Or “I, too, am recovering from prostate cancer.” One woman whose lymphoma and leukemia are in remission said: “Every cancer is scary.”
A woman who battled breast cancer wrote, “Even after you are considered a survivor, there is still that niggling little feeling in the back of your mind that creeps up on you from time to time that it just might come back again.”
A man wrote: “My wife has battled three types of cancer for over 32 years now — and we truly understand what you are going through — and God bless your healing. In March of 2011 she had her left lung and nine lymph nodes removed and is currently undergoing chemo — 16 treatments.”
Vangie Rich, executive director with the R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation, finds individuals fighting cancer are “the bravest people in the world.”
With so many people getting cancer diagnoses I wonder about the damage we humans are doing to the air, water, and land and the havoc it’s creating for folks who are the most susceptible to developing the disease.
“There are so many chemicals out there that we’re really not aware of,” Rich said. “Who do we believe? Who is looking out for the average person?”
My dad, who devoted much of his career as a PhD chemist to cancer research, used to lecture on carcinogens in foods, water, air and land. He said we could avoid many of them. But others are predators, and a lot of us are prey as cancer rates keep rising.
In 2000, experts said that 1.2 million Americans would develop cancer that year. In 2009, it rose to 1.48 million. According to the American Cancer Society, expect 1.64 million of us to be diagnosed with cancer this year. It is higher among males than females.
“About 77 percent of all cancers are diagnosed in persons 55 years of age and older,” the American Cancer Society notes. I’m 56. About 577,190 people in this country are expected to die of cancer, or 1,500 a day. Cancer is second only to heart disease as the deadliest killer in the U.S.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that the overall cost of cancer in 2007 was $226.8 billion — $103.8 billion for direct medical costs including all health expenses and $123 billion for indirect mortality costs such as lost productivity because of premature death.
Rich said the good news in the numbers is that more people than ever are surviving cancer. Regular checkups and second opinions help.
“Before, surgery was the only treatment,” Rich said. “That was not that long ago.”
Today individuals — like Warren Buffett who announced last week that he has prostate cancer — have options such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy and internal radiation.
More patients now know to be active, questioning participants in their treatment and to leave physicians who say if they can’t cure you no one can, Rich said. “You want to go to a doctor who has treated thousands of patients rather than 35,” she said.
It helps cancer patients to purposely expose themselves to others who offer hope and who stay in the struggle with them. One woman wrote, “Breast cancer has made me a strong advocate for monthly self-checks and annual mammography.”
No one could ask for a better friend than someone who relentlessly pushes others to get checked and to not give up hope. Survival is the key to being able to help others.
To reach Lewis W. Diuguid call 816-234-4723 or send e-mail to Ldiuguid@kcstar.com.