February 4. World Cancer Day. The goal for today is to have anyone and everyone affected by cancer stand up and do something. Celebrities join forces with non-celebrities as they declare the need to take action to not only cure cancer, but to prevent cancer. “Life before death.” Fact: one in three cancer deaths can be prevented.
Cancer is a very touchy topic for me (as it is with anyone affected by cancer – duh, Sera). Sometimes, in my selfish desires I want to pretend that it does not exist. This stems from the fact that the two people I’m closely related to who have passed away from cancer, I 1) did not have the chance to get to know them well, and 2) have not been told the full story about their cancer.
What I do know:
My grandpa had cancer of the spine. He had it for a few years before he died yet he was not diagnosed (if you can even call it that) until about two weeks before he died. I did not have the opportunity to be there as he passed away, nor the opportunity to attend his funeral, but first-hand accounts from my dad expressed that he was in excruciating pain his last few weeks alive, and especially more so the days before he died. Why? Basically, his spine was slowly corroding. By the time they figured it out it was too late to do anything about it.
This photo was taken five months before he passed away. All the adults knew he was sick so it was a big deal to have this photo taken because it was Father’s Day.
Dadabe: 1932 – 2007
My great-grandma passed away from lung cancer. She was not a smoker, she did not live in an environment that exposed her to hazardous chemicals or carcinogens, or an environment infested with pesticides or asbestos, yet she got lung cancer. That’s all I know.
The photo below was taken nine months before she died. Ironically, my uncle standing beside her is smoking a cigarette. I had to crop the cigarette out cause it aggravated me too much.
My culture is very different from the American culture. Due to the fact that the bodies have to be whole and not have had any excess cuts in order to be placed in the family tombs, autopsies are not common. (We also do not cremate the bodies.) This frustrates me; I am torn between respecting the culture and wanting to be educated. Regardless, I am aware that cancer is in my family genes. Am I worried I will inherit these genes? I probably already have but worrying is pointless. Education, raising awareness, changing lifestyles – those are all the things I should be focusing on now.
What I’ve been becoming more curious about is how to educate those in my country. Here in America, a first-world country, we have access to screening materials, education materials, media that can accurately portray to the public that is cancer is real; stop avoiding it. In Madagascar, a third-world country, it’s a bit more difficult. There is a lack of funds to do anything such as screening. If anything, funds raised would probably go towards food to feed the people. Do I want to help prevent cancer or do I want to help feed the people so they can survive day-to-day? How does one attack such a big problem? I get smothered about these thoughts. I want people to be aware that what they might be dying from, what their children might be dying from is cancer. It’s not a taboo topic, it’s not something that only happens in other places, it is unfortunately so very real.
Stand up. Do something. The least you can do? Tell one person today to click on the link so at least they learn something about cancer. What more can you do beyond that? Pledge to do something different in your life to prevent cancer in your life or a loved one’s life. Don’t sit around idle thinking you’re the exception.
I desire to find out the full story of my grandparents. Until then, you can bet I am researching as much as I can on the two types of cancer. I pledge to get educated in honor of the both of them.