Thursday, August 17, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0268 - Cancer Currency

I drive a Toyota Camry, and of course that means that I notice almost every Camry that I see on streets and highways. I am battling rectal cancer, and of course that means that I notice almost every news story with a cancer connection, no matter how tenuous.

This week was no exception. Toronto is hosting the biennial AIDS conference with about 24,000 people attending. Apart from big-name celebrities like Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Steven Lewis, and Richard Gere dominating the conference coverage, there has been surprisingly little news broadcast about new discoveries. One aspect of the fight against AIDS/HIV that was unknown to me was the estimated casualties world wide - 11,000 are estimated to die daily from AIDS/HIV.

All this attention to AIDS has left me wondering about the battle against cancer. Worldwide annual cancer deaths are estimated to be 7 million, which means over 19,000 cancer-related deaths daily. I am unaware of any cancer-related conferences on the scale of the AIDS conference in Toronto, but I suppose the lack of one huge conference is compensated by the number of cancer conferences. There are, for example, two conferences related to gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers in the next three months alone (Current Trends in GI Malignancies and 5th International Colorectal Cancer Congress).

From the macro to the micro. One news item surfacing Wednesday was the arrest of a suspect in the tabloid-sensationalized JonBenet Ramsey murder of 1996. Less than an hour ago, there were further revelations indicating that the murder was in fact a suicide. What touched me, though, was the realization that JonBenet's mother, Patsy, died of recurrent ovarian cancer on June 24th of this year. Obviously, recurrent cancer is a fear of mine as well. But that is not why the story intrigues me.

Much as I fear cancer, there are situations far worse, one of which is the death of one's child. My own parents have experienced such a tragedy not once but twice. I cannot imagine how I would deal with the death of one of my children, but I know that it would eclipse, by far, anything I have undergone in battling cancer.

Linking current events and cancer is just another aspect of my worldview these days. I don't necessarily recommend it to anyone. But, as my sister-in-law would say, "that's just the way it is."

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