Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sixty Miles, Three Days, One Goal!

Sixty Miles, Three Days, One Goal! This is one of several slogans that the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure uses. I saw it on buttons and tee-shirts, and I like it. Because that is what thousands of us were doing September 23-25 in the Washington, DC area - walking about 60 miles in three days to ultimately achieve one goal: stamping out incurable breast cancer.

Are we any closer to attaining this long-dreamed of goal? It is too late for my sister, my immense inspiration for me to walk this walk in the first place. But it is not too late for many others. Consider this fact that I learned during the closing ceremony: that the five year survival rate for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients in the United States stands at 98%! That is astounding! Just in the last week, I read about two amazing progress reports in the fight against breast cancer. In one, scientists at Penn State had discovered a virus that was annihilating breast cancer cells in the lab. It was so effective that they assumed that all the samples were contaminated, and redid all the work - and got the same results. In the other study, making an antibody from breast cancer cells in a person that was tailored to that person's proteins and cells was really effective if the cancer occurred again, and especially so it if was used early in the reoccurrance.

We are closer than we have ever been, but it is still not enough. For example, if you are 40 or 50 with breast cancer and have a 98% chance of living five years, but then die after six or seven, that is entirely too much of your lifetime to lose. The goal has to be to either make these cancers totally curable, or at least make them a chronic disease that people can survive for decades with minimal misery or impact on their lives. And with someone dying every 69 seconds somewhere in the world from breast cancer, we still have a long way to go.

Sixty Miles, Three Days, One Goal! It felt great to be a part of this in 2011, and I am really glad I did it. But I will be even more glad when they report, hopefully in the next 10 years: "You know that elusive goal we've been striving for? Mission accomplished! Thanks, everyone, for helping!" Won't that be amazing news? I hope I am here to hear it, but if not, I hope my granddaughter knows that her grandpa helped make it happen in his own tiny way.

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