I have written a couple of times about my personal and professional sensitivity towards cancer. I think cancer is a disease that well deserves to be eradicated (though logically I am aware that this is not gonna happen in my life time, and until then reducing the cancer risk and encouraging more research and development of effective screening, diagnosis, and treatment strategies is a must).
Patient, survivor, and caregiver experiences shared in blogs, newspapers/magazines, online resources, and social media are incredible learning opportunities about this disease, its impact, and the vast array of opinions/experiences/attitudes about cancer. I admit prior to maybe a year ago, all I knew about cancer, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment options were through medical journals and organizations. Since last year, I have been increasingly reading about cancer patients’ experiences, mostly through twitter and wordpress and I am amazed by how much I learn about the other face of cancer; the human experience.
I am also surprised to see that sometimes some cancer types (such as thyroid cancer that has usually very good survival rates) are annotated by some as “good or easy cancers” and thus patients affected by these diseases are left out (and often outraged by such comments – and rightfully if I may add), as if it is not enough to go through its diagnosis, surgery/treatment, and survivorship issues…. Today I am also surprised to see that a pancreatic cancer advocacy group made an ad implying that the patients affected by pancreatic cancer are “envious of patients affected by other cancers” (such as breast cancer) due to availability of treatment options and relatively higher survival rates.
I do not understand why the research in deadly cancers (such as pancreatic, gastric, lung and other cancers, or metastatic cancers as a whole) has traditionally been neglected, which has led to limited treatment options and high mortality rates. That breaks my heart (seriously) and I believe is not acceptable and this is what we need to fight against. If we all push for more research and better medical care for all cancers, if we act in unity (rather than belittling or ignoring some cancer sites), does not our chance of controlling this disease increase?
I honestly used to think that some cancers were worse than others (i.e. high mortality cancers)… Now, after I saw different opinions and experiences by cancer patients, I am changing my opinion. I tend to agree with others (e.g. see the links above as examples) that cancer should not be a piss contest or a competition; cancer is cancer – each patient and their family/friends/caregivers seem to go through it in different, individualized ways but the main theme does not change: the uncertainity about the future, financial, emotional, social, and psychological impact, and most importantly, facing our own mortality.
That is why I have great respect and admiration towards each of the cancer patients and caregivers. Each one of them…