By Clyde Davis: CNJ Columnist
Relay for Life teams have been forming for months. Organizational meetings have been held, and soon the fundraisers will start. There will be carwashes, bake sales, auction items, garage sales and so on. All of these happen in service to the underlying issue — raise awareness, raise money, and raise support for the fight against cancer.
The American Cancer Society, which organizes and sponsors this large walkathon, has a local branch, as most of you know, employing a full-time professional organizer, Dorothy Nelson. A lot of cancer prevention information is readily available, from Nelson and from area medical facilites, and there is little if any excuse for misinformation.
Yet my stepdaughter Amanda, who annually raises more than $1,000 simply by persistently going door to door, has had some amazing encounters. Last year, she visited one house where the owner insisted that the cure for cancer was out there and someone was simply hiding it from us.
Note to self: Conspiracy exists to hide lifesaving secrets from the general public. Possible purpose — population control. Yeah, right. Cancer is more aptly described as a collection of diseases- there are some cures for some forms. There is no panacea.
I am one of the lucky ones. I beat the odds on esophogeal cancer nearly seven years ago. I credit this to really good health to start, reasonably early detection and a gifted surgical team.
I do not believe it is a special sign of God’s favor. God loves us all, and all of us do not beat the odds. Were I to face that same cancer today, the odds would be somewhat different — survival has gone from around 30 to around 50 percent, and treatments are different — including less harsh on the body, which increases survival. We are moving forward.
Enough technical stuff. I am writing this in memory of those who, facing whatever odds and whatever kind of cancer, did not beat the odds. I am writing it in memory of Gary, and Chris, and Jane, and Sherri, and countless others.
This is the message. Early detection. Listen to your body and the symptoms. Do not be afraid of the signs. Get checkups. Do not believe it can’t happen to you. Become informed. Seek the best medical help you can. Use your resources, including the Internet.
When diagnosed, I weighed 200 pounds. I’d been employed as a teacher in Maple, Texas, with responsibility for physical education strength and conditioning, as well as English. I could bench press 250 pounds. Typical cancer risk? Now go back and read the preceding paragraph — the one about paying attention.
Relay for Life is like Mothers’ Day. It attracts our attention every May for a while. However, like Mothers’ Day, if we only heed it one day a year, it isn’t much good. Go to Relay, join a team, have fun, eat some of the great food that’s usually there, camp out if you like. But get the real messages: early detection, prevention by lifestyle and informed decison making.
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and a college instructor. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org