Friday, October 2, 2009

Changing the face of cancer

This next article means a lot to me! I hope you enjoy it!
- MeL

Published on Aug. 5, 2008 in the Antrim Review
(Archived version available at

By Melissa Lee

The American Cancer Society estimates that this year alone approximately 1.5 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer. An estimated 51,000 of those will come from Michigan. In Antrim County between 2000 and 2004, approximately 158 people battled cancer.

The most staggering statistic of all, however, is that 100 percent of the population has been affected by cancer, whether it be battling it first hand or knowing someone who is. Cancer is all around us. It is inescapable- ignoring it is no longer an option.

To someone who hasn’t heard that diagnosis or seen what that one word can do to a family, these statistics are just empty numbers. But in a nation where 11 million people have physically waged a war against their own body and won, these numbers are an opportunity to put a face to the second largest leading cause of death in the United States.

From July 24-27, I was lucky enough to attend the 2008 “LiveStrong” Summit sponsored by the Lance Armstrong Foundation at Ohio State University. There, I met some of the amazing people who have been dealt the hand none of us wants to encounter. These people put a face of bravery and hope on a disease that baffles doctors. Their passion and the passion of the Lance Armstrong Foundation have made quite an impact on my life.

After watching my grandfather lose his battle with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2001, I thought I knew what cancer was. I saw pain and death sitting right in front of me, which became my understanding of cancer. But it wasn’t until I stepped out of my comfort zone and traveled to this conference that I saw a different reality than the one I had created for myself. The people I met had been hurt just as deeply as I had by cancer and in many cases more, but they refused to let the disease win without a fight.

The purpose of my trip to Ohio was to learn how to make cancer a national priority. It was here that I heard internationally known athlete Lance Armstrong explain that through his encounters with our political heavyweights, he learned just how divided the cancer issue was. Between breast cancer to leukemia and lymphoma, there just aren’t enough resources to go around. That is the mission of Armstrong and his foundation now, to unify the cancer movement and make a change. I have jumped on board wholeheartedly.

When I wasn’t in the presence of some of the most influential names in the medical world or listening to U.S. Presidential candidate John McCain, a cancer survivor, I was learning how we can do our part in the movement. Placed in the “Grassroots and Elections” session, I learned how to register voters, get leaders on record about their stance on cancer funding (which has declined at an unbelievable rate over the years), and how to get people out to vote on the important issues. So please don’t be alarmed when you see me walking up your front steps, I will more than likely be there to talk to you about what I learned.

Cancer doesn’t have to be equated with death anymore, it’s important that everyone understands that. I implore all of you to get informed about this disease, ask questions and share your stories. Most of all, I hope you learn what it means to “LiveStrong” every day.

For more information on LiveStrong and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, please visit:

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