World Cancer Day

It’s World Cancer Day and there is really only one statistic to remember today:  11 million people worldwide are cancer survivors who will celebrate a birthday this year.

This good news does not negate the fact that cancer is a deadly disease, but medical technology has come up with many treatments which cure or keep it at bay. And we should celebrate this because medical research costs money and needs government funding and this is something we can actually do beyond the official message of today “Dear God, I pray for a cure for cancer’’.

Take a moment to reflect on how many people you know who have been diagnosed with a cancer. I have counted 19 relatives, friends and workmates in the last few years – and most have not passed over.

However, in the last four months,  my former husband, the father of my son,  has died of  a melanoma and I lost a male friend from pancreatic cancer. Both these cancers are deadly. Yet, of the nine  female cousins and friends who have had cancer in  the past 5 years, only one (my cousin) succumbed – to ovarian cancer – another killer cancer with a 50 per cent survival rate only.  So, cancer is a serious disease, but it is no longer the death sentence it once was.

Yesterday, we visited a girlfriend, who is having chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer and we listened as she told us how she lost her hair exactly 14 days after her first chemotherapy treatment.  Olivier told of his female hormone treatment, an implant in his stomach.

“I am having hot flushes,’’ he said flapping his hand in front of his face.

“And you never know, I might grow breasts!’’

It was a wonderful light moment and we all laughed heartily.  The irony was obvious because my girlfriend, of course, had had a mastectomy losing her right breast.

Then the date clicked.  Exactly two months ago – January 24 – husband Olivier was diagnosed with secondary spinal cancer and within days was on hormone treatment for advanced prostate cancer, the primary cancer.

The treatment is working well and we have many medical scientists to thank for years of research into an impressive array of drugs used by oncologists.  And, as Olivier’s oncologist told us, research is ongoing with a new generation of  drugs being tested in laboratories around the world.  This is the vital reason why we need World Cancer Day to make people aware of the high strike rate of cancer and highlight the need for a cure.

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