Relay For Life 2015:
Where Does The Money go?
Where does the money go?
Anyone who raises money for Relay for Life (or any organization really) eventually gets this question. Most know your donations fund research, education, patient services and advocacy. But what is really being done?
At the turn of the 20th century, a cancer diagnosis meant certain death. Survival was measured in weeks and months – and never in years. Grandparents spoke of cancer in hushed terms and remarks such as “they opened her up and it spread like fire,” to “she never had a chance” were often quietly said.
The first chemo drug, methotrexate, was discovered by accident. Soldiers during WWI had been exposed to mustard gas and doctors were trying to raise their white blood count. After a drug was administered and the patients showed improvement, the doctors wondered if it might help blood cancer patients. It did, but while it didn’t cure the first wave of patients, it inspired the doctors to fine-tune the drug and combine it with others to, for the first time, offer hope to a person diagnosed with cancer.
For the next couple of decades, research continued but treatment was more “scorched earth” in that chemo drugs destroyed everything in a person’s body, including the cancer. Other physicians would operate and remove more than was needed in an attempt to “get the cancer.” And many were still dying from cancer.
Enter the 1970’s. The Cancer Act of 1971 was passed – and money started to flow to promising research. Richard Nixon declared war on cancer – and while it might have been an attempt to bolster his public image (as some have said – and really, who could blame him, right?!), who cares? Because researchers started turning out amazing results time after time. Cigarettes were first said to cause cancer. Pesticides were found to cause cancer. Clinical trials began. Radiation was improved. Drugs were combined. And people began surviving.
In today’s age, after an initial period of heavy chemo combined with other alternatives, some cancers are cured and many others are considered “managed.” Life-altering side effects, like nausea and low blood counts, can be minimized with new medications on the market. Outlying hospitals, like Washington County, work in conjunction with the bigger hospitals so infusions, labs and scans can be done locally rather than making the daily or weekly trips to metro areas. All-in-all, cancer treatment is, at the moment, as good as it gets.
And while this might be a letdown to some seeking a cure, taking pills or periodic treatment can equal many quality years of life. A breast cancer diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean a mastectomy. Women who have had ovarian cancer are still able to bear children. Children with brain tumors are not having a secondary cancer due to too much radiation. Cervical cancer can be caught before it ever becomes cancer.
And while much remains in the fight against cancer – because some cancers are just nasty, many, many improvements have been made. Just look around. 1 in 30 people is a cancer survivor. Eleven million people are walking around today surviving cancer.
And isn’t that what we’re all hoping for?