Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2010 - 9/11 Every 2 Days

That's the title of an article by Betsy DeParry, whom I've come to know a bit through the online lymphoma community, and through reading her cancer memoir, The Roller Coaster Chronicles. What she's referring to is a well-publicized statistic that 1,500 people die every day from cancer in this country. Approximately 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, which means cancer brings about another 9/11 every couple of days.

Cancer doesn't garner the same level of response - and understandably so, from a psychological standpoint. The 9/11 attacks were sudden, brutal, inhuman - and completely unexpected for most Americans. They turned life in our country on its head, and we're still living through a lot of the aftermath.

We're wrapping up one war and still deeply embroiled in another. After conducting those wars in a way our nation has never prosecuted a war before - essentially putting the costs on a credit card, neither raising taxes nor asking for financial sacrifice from the general public - our economy is in a shambles.

More than that, a lot of us are living with a level of fear and anxiety we've never known before. The contentious, fear-driven debate over the construction of the Park 51 Muslim community center in lower Manhattan - not to mention the media's hysterical response to the bigoted wing-nut minister who wanted to hold a Qu'ran-burning party - is ample evidence of that.

I understand the Federal budget is so loaded down, now, with expenses for national security - and those programs are being administered by such a vast, disconnected profusion of agencies, funded in some cases by money from secret budgets - that no one really knows exactly how much we're spending, nor for what.

Betsy doesn't make any observations like these in her article - they're my own, and I'll claim them - but she does recall how, ironically, it was on the anniversary of 9/11 several years back that she received the single radioimmunotherapy (RIT) treatment that has kept her cancer-free ever since. For her, personally, 9/11 is a day of celebration.

That, of course, is an ambiguous legacy, as she herself reflects:

"Yet eight years after winning FDA approval, the two RIT drugs are still caught in the health system's for profit stranglehold that has limited access to between 5 and 10 percent of the patients who might benefit from them. That's like sending the finest emergency crews and state-of-the-art equipment to rescue 5 to 10 percent of the victims of any tragedy and sending the bucket brigade to help the rest. Wouldn't we all be outraged? Just as maddening, targeted therapies like RIT have been hailed as the future of cancer care, but interest in developing RIT drugs for other types of cancer has waned because the RIT drugs for lymphoma have not been commercially successful.

Cancer claims 1,500 Americans every day. That's 9/11 every two days. And it's simply unacceptable, especially when lifesaving treatments like RIT are available for some.

Yes, I'm grateful that eight years ago today, RIT restored my health and kept my family whole, but my celebration is tempered with respect for the families who lost loved ones on that tragic morning a year before RIT rescued me. And my individual triumph over cancer is overshadowed by sorrow for the families who will suffer so long as profit takes precedence over people."

Are we really saving lives with all the wild spending on domestic-security programs and research into arcane military technologies, many of which may never see the light of day on a battlefield? No one can say. Yet, it's far more certain that the money we're NOT spending, as a nation, on delivering health-care technologies we've already developed and tested to sick people who truly need them is causing more deaths than any terrorist attack ever did.

On 9/11, let us honor the memory of those who have died, and the pain of those who miss their loved ones still. Yet, let us also redouble our efforts at bringing life and health to those who can still be saved.


Carolyn Langlie-Lesnik RN BSN said...

Hi Carl!

I always keep up with your blog, you write so well and have so many good things to say.

Just wanted to give you a head's up about something I learned today.
Stanford University's Patient Education Research Center is offering an on-line program for those who have survived cancer 2 or more times (including recurrences of the same cancer).

They are running a 6-week on-line workshop that gives people who have survived cancer two or more times the skills needed to regain their life back after cancer and take control of their health. Participants are also able to connect with other cancer survivors.

Those interested can go to to learn more and sign up.

Thanks for your great posts!

Cancer Support Community said...

Hi Carl, your blog entry really brings up some very good points regarding the need for development in health care technologies for cancer patients. Thankfully, a few great organizations are making headway in the field of cancer treatment and support.

Here at the Cancer Support Community, we are happy to announce the launch of Framing Life With Lymphoma, a national, research-based educational program designed to enhance lymphoma patient and physician communication, made possible with support from Cephalon Inc.

You can learn more at

caleb john said...
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