After group, I reached out to a person who I had been put in touch with by the facilitator of our group, another guy who is just starting his own cancer journey. He's starting down almost the exact same road I started down (same diagnosis, same pre-surgery treatment), so we chatted for about an hour and compared notes. He's off to good start, but has a long road ahead of him. I wish him the best.
So, one person loses their battle and another springs up in their place. It's never-ending, isn't it? Wave after wave of people being diagnosed. Even if every sporting event and TV show had athletes and actors wearing ribbons, wristbands and whatever else of every color mapped to every kind of cancer, and a portion of every product sold went to some kind of cancer screening, prevention and research efforts -- people would still get cancer and people would still die from it. I bet it'd drop off quite a bit, but people would still get cancer and people would still die from it. And as soon as we all take our foot off the screening/prevention/research pedal, cancer rates would shoot back up.
You know what it reminds me of? Stoats in New Zealand.
When I was traveling in New Zealand I trekked the Milford Track in Fjordlands National Park (an area of amazing natural beauty). It's a multi-day hike and each night you get to stay at nice huts along the way. Well, one of the nights one of the park rangers came in to tell us about stoats and stoat trapping. Stoats are little weasel-like animals that the government takes great pains to continually trap as the stoats would otherwise just completely devastate the local bird population. Why are the stoats trapped? Why don't the birds just fly away? Well, Wikipedia says it better than I could:
The rabbit as introduced as a food and game animal [in New Zealand[ by European settlers and by the 1870s, it was becoming a serious threat to the newly developed farming economy. Farmers began demanding the introduction of mustelids (including stoats) to control the rabbit plague. Warnings about the dangers to bird life from stoats were given by scientists in New Zealand and Britain, including the New Zealand ornithologist Walter Buller. The warnings were ignored and stoats began to be introduced from Britain in the 1880s, then, within six years, drastic declines in bird populations were noticed.
New Zealand has a high proportion of ground-nesting and flightless birds, due to the long geographical isolation and a lack of mammal predators. The native birds have evolved to fill the niche that is otherwise filled by mammals. Stoats are the greatest threat to these ground-nesting and hole-nesting birds since they have very little means of escaping predation. In addition to birds, stoats eat insects and mice. During times of a "beech mast", when the southern beeches produce a far greater than normal amount of seed, the stoat population undergoes changes in predation behaviour. With high beech-seed numbers, rats and mice become more plentiful; this increase in prey encourages stoat breeding. The higher stoat numbers, then reduce the rodent population and the stoats then prey on birds. For instance, the endangered takahe's wild population dropped by a third between 2006 and 2007, after a stoat plague triggered by the 2005–06 mast wiped out more than half the takahe in untrapped areas.Point being, the government continually traps the stoats in order to stem the time. There's no way they can trap all of the stoats, of course, but they keep at it. And in regions surrounded by a perimeter where stoats are trapped, the birds do better. If the trapping stops, the birds get annihilated. So, the stoats are cancer, the birds are people and the traps are cancer prevention, screening and research efforts. Trapping of the stoats doesn't stop the problem (and it never will), but it does help and the alternative would be letting the stoats run amok.
OK, maybe it's not the best metaphor, but it works for me.
I'm a bit wiped. Time to hit it.