September 26, 2012

Milwaukee Courier

Blood Cancer Awareness Month

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

What does cancer mean to you?  Maybe you have experienced a battle with cancer.  Maybe you’ve had to see a loved one battle with cancer.  Perhaps you work in the health industry, and your job involves living with cancer patients, treating them, listening or caring for them.  Maybe you’ve attended a Walk for Life and met with survivors or the family members of victims.  Maybe you’ve donated to cancer research.  30,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer in Wisconsin this year.  Most will recover.       

The point is that we’ve all experienced the battle with cancer in one way or another, whether we’ve lived it or not.  Some people say Americans are rugged individuals pushing out against the world, pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps.  I guess that’s true, but we’re people of community too.  We are a people who learn from one another and who find joy in one another.

Cancer is a terrible and heart-breaking disease.  I am shocked that in the year 2012, we are still battling the disease, but we are making gains.  Take, for example, the advances made thanks to blood cancer research.  Blood cancer is a particularly dreadful disease that deserves a certain degree of awareness, not least because the Hispanic community happens to suffer from some of the world’s worst statistics for leukemia.  As our nation’s demographics shift towards more diversity, we may have to respond to the different diseases, leukemia among them. 

Are we prepared?  Are we ready for the challenges that await us?  Americans have long prided ourselves for our innovation and our bravery in the face of great challenges.  Now I feel that we may be falling behind as we shrink in fear of all that we face.  That’s not for us.  That’s not the way we do it!  In our own little lives, we’ve faced so much.  Any one of those people I mentioned at the top of this column know what I’m talking about. They know what it’s like to face down a big problem and keep going.

That’s the kind of spirit we need more of policy and in government.  I was recently at a Walk for Life in Milwaukee and I was shocked and moved by what I saw.  Not defeat, but a kind of giddy optimism.  When dealing with cancer, I sometimes still can’t understand why people react the way that they do.  Why they choose to choose to deal with so much pain and loss with humor or joy.  But a lot of the time, that’s what people do. 

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society have called September “Blood Cancer Awareness Month”, but really, we should constantly try and be mindful of this disease.  Those of us who have been blessed enough to succumb to this sickness should remember just how lucky we are.  On the other hand we have no business pushing aside the pain of cancer patients and their families.  We can learn a lot by being sensitive to the woes of others.  It keeps us humble and human.  It helps us remember that sometimes, we really need help.  And that is okay!

If you have the means, please consider donating to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society today.  They are doing great work fighting blood cancer and helping research for other cancer cures too.  They can be reached at (888)-557-7177.

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