Cancer Crackdown: People should consider donating to cancer research, awareness foundations regardless of personal affiliation


Claire Abdellah, Reporter

On Sunday, Feb. 4, World Cancer Day will take place. It is a day which has a special place in my heart. Cancer has touched my family and I, as it has all of us.
My grandfather died of lung cancer when I was eight years old. My best friend’s father, a second father to me at times, passed away due to thyroid cancer in 2016. My oldest brother’s childhood best friend died of leukemia fourteen years ago. A beloved friend of mine growing up passed away from a rare type of tumor almost six years ago next month.
When one person is diagnosed with cancer, the damage that comes with it is not just limited to them. It affects anyone and everyone who they hold close to their heart. An individual does not get cancer, a family does. Additionally, cancer does not discriminate. It does not care about your race, gender, socioeconomic status or anything else that defines you. It is a chilling truth we have to live with, that cancer can happen to any of us. To lose just one person to this disease is more than enough, and I have lost far too many over the years.
I am not alone. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2018 there will be an estimated 1,735,350 new cancers diagnosed in the United States. Furthermore, 609,640 cancer patients will lose their battles with this illness. With every day we have left in this year, we have the potential to reduce those numbers to zero.
Therefore, I decided to take things into my own hands. I worked in fundraising for cancer research in elementary school and middle school, but this time I wanted something more. So, in the summer of 2016, I researched and wrote an independent study paper on cancer, detailing its earliest recorded appearances in ancient Greece and Egypt, all the way up to the most promising treatments available to patients today. I did this because I believe knowledge is power. The more I could know about this disease is that much more I could use against it. I also did this for closure. Nothing will fully heal the heartbreak cancer has left in its wake, but learning and writing about it helped me to cope.
Following the completion of my study, I fundraised for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk in October of the same year. Just 48 hours before the walk, someone I knew and loved lost their battle with cancer. It was yet another reminder of just how wicked this illness can be. While going through the walk, I made a promise to myself, everyone fighting cancer at that moment, all of the survivors and all who I had lost to this disease that I would fight back harder than I ever had before.
In January of 2017 I joined the Indiana chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Students of the Year Campaign, a nationwide fundraising challenge for blood cancer research by high school students. I served on the campaign’s leadership team for the 2016-2017 campaign and continue to do so for this year’s and next year’s events as well. Additionally, this past summer I was fortunate enough to participate in the chapter’s internship program. I am only one of a growing number of students at this school and around the state working with this campaign. The work I have done with this organization and the people I have met through it have changed me in ways that words cannot describe.
World Cancer Day is an opportunity for people around the world to reflect on what they can do in the war on cancer, make a pledge and take action. On this year’s World Cancer Day, I encourage you to join us in the fight against this disease. Participation will look different for everyone. Perhaps it is donating to a cancer research organization of your choice, reading up on screenings and testings for loved ones who may be at risk or simply educating yourself like I chose to do back in 2016. Whatever your choice may be, do it knowing your contributions will put us one step closer to a world without cancer.
I believe a cure is out there somewhere. In the past decade alone we have witnessed incredible progress in how we treat this disease. However, the reality we face is that there is still a long way to go. Although new “magic bullets” of treatments are on the market and in use today, cancer will eventually outsmart them. It is a strange and powerful virus seemingly unstoppable at times.
We are presented with an opportunity next Sunday to beat cancer at its own game, to fight fire with fire. No longer should this condition be a death sentence. Cancer is an ugly disease, but the beauty of life after cancer is something worth fighting for. Fight as if your life depends on it. Fight because someone else’s does. Fight for a world in which your children and your family will not have to live in fear of the ever-present threat of this illness.
When we walk, cancer runs, so on World Cancer Day, I challenge you to step up.