By Rebecca Ruehl
The Washington County Relay for Life is slated for Saturday, June 24 at the Okawville Community Center. Please visit www.relayforlife.org to register or to join a team.
Our family has had a team since the first year of Relay (1998.) Our daughter was a new survivor and it was an easy way to give back to an organization that saved her life. Had it not been for research paid for by the American Cancer Society, she would not have survived. In fact, she was a member of the first generation to survive childhood leukemia.
Do you ever wonder how many other advances your donations have supported? A short answer is: the drug that cured leukemia (methotrexate), tamoxifen (the drug that keeps so many breast cancer survivors in remission), Gleevec (a drug used in bone marrow transplants that prevents rejection), HPV vaccine that prevents so many of our youth from developing cancer and so many tests that discover cancer at much earlier stages. In fact, just in Illinois, $400,000 of your donations are going to Dr. Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, MBBS as he tries to isolate a genome approach to triple negative breast cancer.
Many people complain that the money raised by local Relays for Life does not stay local, in that the money isn’t managed here. It’s easy to understand how someone could be bothered by that, especially after raising $5000 and finding out it goes into a pool controlled in another state. Hear me out: it’s a very, very, very good thing that the money raised locally does not stay local. Read that again. “Very very good.” And why? you ask? Because the American Cancer Society gives more than half of its donations to research. Research that has been proven effective in eliminating cancer.
Since 1930, deaths in this country from cancer have been on the decline. Being diagnosed with cancer in the 1930’s was almost certainly a death sentence. Diagnostic testing was nonexistent as was a viable drug to combat the disease. Since the American Cancer Society started funding research in the 30’s, all cancer deaths have declined dramatically. [The sole exception to this statement is lung cancer. The death rate from lung cancer has grown due to the amount of Americans who either smoked or were subjected to second hand smoke.] Statistics show that stomach cancer has gone from 24.6% of cancer deaths to less than 2.9% of cancer deaths today. Similarly, ovarian cancer has decreased from 20.9% of all cancer deaths to 4.3%. And these are just two types of cancer that have had huge increases in people surviving. That’s a good thing.
I estimate that over 19 years, our family team has raised over $80k. I like to think that some little kid is enjoying life cancer-free today because I sold 1,300 pork burgers. Or that some mom is enjoying that awful field trip with her school-age kids because I donated the last portion for the research that cured her breast cancer. When you add our little team amount to the other 20 county teams, then multiply that by 100+ events just here in the State of Illinois, it seems the sky’s the limit in what can be achieved. Maybe in 30 years, our kids won’t even remember what cancer was.
And that’s just fine with me.