I was never going to get cancer. It just doesn't happen to young guys like me (right?), especially not at 33 with two young kids that I had just brought into the world. Cancer wasn't a part of my life plan, and it's not something that really runs in the nice boring "Camry family" that I come from. We just keep going and going and nothing bad ever really happens to us, just like Toyotas.
It's what we like to think, that nothing bad will ever happen to us, but cancer doesn't discriminate. It can happen to anybody at any age, even if you don't have any risk factors for a particular form of cancer. Hello, dark world. According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of developing cancer of any type is 1 in 2, and the lifetime risk of dying from cancer of any type is 1 in 4. It's basically down to a coin toss on whether you personally will develop cancer in your lifetime or not, and even if you don't it's all but inevitable that at some point in your life people you know and care about will develop cancer, and that some will probably die of it too. And when that cancer diagnosis comes no matter whose it is, everybody is going to want to know that there are solid treatment or management options out there for that cancer, if not a complete cure, and that there will be plenty of support resources for both cancer fighters, co-fighters, and survivors, right?
We sadly have such a long ways to go on this, and these sobering statistics on the true reach of cancer only underscores the need for robust funding for both cancer related research and support programs alike. Despite Testicular Cancer being considered a success story in the cancer and oncology world, the rarest form of the disease, pure choriocarcinoma, is still very deadly. Very few people who are diagnosed with pure choriocarcinoma testicular cancer manage to survive the disease, as it grows so quickly and aggressively that it's almost never detected before it's had a chance to completely overrun one's entire body. Someone still dies of testicular cancer every single day. And many of the treatments, cures and solutions for other forms of cancer simply don't exist yet, and require strong financial support today to develop the cures for tomorrow. All of this takes time, decades, or even generations to develop, but cancer doesn't care that the economy has been rough and that money is short everywhere today, and is all too happy that maybe people just aren't aware, or are too distracted and easily amused or don't care? Look at those statistics - it's down to a coin toss on whether you'll develop cancer in your lifetime or not, and nearly inevitable that someone you love or care about will. What about when it's you? Will the cure you need for yourself or a loved one be there tomorrow when you need it?
As important as funding for cancer programs are, it's been disheartening to all of us here at TCAF and to many within the cancer community to see just how quickly truly obscene five and six-figure amounts of money are being raised for completely meaningless and pointless projects on crowd-funding type websites out there, the latest of which involves potato salad. I have numerous cancer survivor friends that are out there, pounding the pavement, working hard putting in hundreds or even thousands of miles training for and participating in cancer charity rides and runs, and who work tirelessly trying to find creative ways to raise money for the cancer organizations that they're trying to support. And as soon as they've completed one event, they're back out there again gearing up for the next after a quick breather. It's tireless hard work, and they sacrifice so much time away from their families while riding or running or training, all in the name of trying to raise a few bucks for cancer research and support programs. To see more money being raised in a week for 'potato salad' on a crowd-funding website than some of my cancer community friends might raise in a few years of hard work for cancer is a slap in the face. It's not just sad, it's disgraceful. "Man Raises More for Potato Salad in a Week than another Raises Running for Cancer in Years". You'd expect to see a headline like that on a satirical website like The Onion, but that's very much a real headline. What does this say about us as a society when people are so proud to be a part of the "potato salad" social fad, while cancer researchers everywhere are struggling to secure funding for their work? One is meaningless, and the other could save your life or that of someone you love someday. This is beyond shameful.
If you want to be a part of a real program that will affect real people and make meaningful differences in their lives and possibly your own someday, there are so many cancer related organizations out there that you could donate to that are in far more urgent need of your money. Favored organizations here at TCAF are both Imerman Angels and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, as just two of many examples. Imerman Angels, founded by a testicular cancer survivor, helps to connect cancer fighters and caregivers with a Mentor Angel who will help guide and support those affected by cancer through their cancer fights. Nothing is more terrifying than a cancer diagnosis, but nothing has helped me to feel more secure than a mentor who has been there and done that and helped guide me through the experience. As someone who has both been mentored and has provided the mentoring informally, the one-on-one support mission advocated by IA is something that we all believe very strongly in here. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is very well known for helping children with life-threatening medical conditions to live some of their dreams and enjoy life a bit with their families, when many of them have only seen the insides of hospitals for years, and have medical bills the size of mountains that would make such experiences otherwise impossible. And TCAF could always use your support as well, either via direct and tax-deductible donations, or through our online shop. Our mission here is to spread knowledge and awareness about the number one form of cancer that affects men aged 15-35, but is almost never talked about. TCAF has also helped to provide financial support for families in need, some of whom have been turned away from other prominent organizations that testicular cancer survivors have actually raised significant amounts of money for.
I know it's not as cool or as fun to talk about cancer as it is about the latest social fad or trend that you were so proud to have supported on a crowd-funding website, but I'm not kidding that it makes me feel physically ill and nauseous when I see tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars being thrown blindly towards things as ridiculous as potato salad, when that campaign in particular was started as a joke with a $10 goal! That same money could be used to help fund cancer research programs that could help save your life or that of someone you love down the road, could be used to send a terminally ill child and their family to Disney for whom there is no cure today, or could be used to help connect someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer and is afraid for their lives with a local mentor angel that can help guide them and show them the way.
I was never going to get cancer, and nobody else ever "planned" to get cancer either. Never in my life or in a million years did I ever think that cancer would impact my own life in such a way, but here I am as a 3 year survivor of testicular cancer blogging at TCAF to an audience of tens of thousands. I've wised up and know that cancer can strike anyone at any time, and am trying my best to make a difference today, so that the next me and the next you will have an easier time with this tomorrow. What about when it's you? How are you making a difference in the fight against cancer?
Will the treatment and support that you might need for the cancer that you or a loved one might face in the future be there tomorrow?
It might not be, if we're too distracted or easily amused funding 'potato salad' today.
Cancer is relentless and requires continual focus and support, and long-term planning if we ever hope to overcome it.
I've personally decided, on my own, that I'm going to make proportional matching contributions to a few cancer related organizations of my choosing at the conclusion of this 'potato salad' campaign on August 2nd, because otherwise I'm just not going to be able to sleep well at night. As of this writing the potato salad funding stands at just shy of $50K, and at one point was up to as much as $70K. If the funding happens to land at $100K, then I'll be making a few $100 donations to support a real cause (or $50 for $50K, etc). It shouldn't be easier to raise tens of thousands of dollars for potato salad than it is to help support cancer research and support programs. I hope some of you reading will join me in doing so as well, because this just isn't right and it makes me sick.
Cross-posted at StevePake.com