During the past few weeks I’ve been participating a daily countdown challenge to #WorldCancerDay, FEB 4. Each day I get an email with a suggested activity that I can use to help others better understand cancer and engage in positive actions to fight our global cancer burden. This particular challenge really hit home and sparked a lot of thoughts for me: “Today, think about your own personal story and journey. Why are you passionate about this issue? Why is it important? Who are you doing this for?”
Let me try to tackle those questions here …
My Story and Journey
Down at UCSF Cancer Center, they call me “a walking miracle and the future of medicine”. My doctors and nurses frequently tell me my story is something people everywhere really need to hear. I’m living proof that cancer breakthroughs and great healthcare technology can do amazing things. In brief, my medical team is using a variety of current and proven cancer-fighting tools (surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation) to keep my cancer in close check while we evaluate new and emerging breakthroughs that might be right for me. We set this general plan in motion back in late 2017 and it has worked out amazingly well. In the next few months, I will fully enter a new immuno-oncology clinical trial that holds great promise for my type of cancer as well as a number of others. In the meantime, for much of February, I’ll be getting daily radiation treatments to keep one of my known and recurring cancer spots in check.
Why Am I Passionate and Why’s This Important?
Well the first part is really simple and obvious; I’m still here and I’m rollin’ strong! (I’ve learned the hard way that there’s nothing like a life-threatening diagnosis to spark your passion.) The second part is more complex. I feel it’s important for everyone to realize I am among the most very fortunate cancer-fighters you will ever meet. That is because I have advantages that most people in the cancer community do not have and they are:
1) local access to perhaps the greatest cancer care in the world through UCSF Health.
2) exceptional healthcare insurance through my employer, Salesforce.com.
3) an incredible support network of family, friends, and co-workers that spans the globe.
Without any of one of these three key ingredients, my family and I would be in a very, very different situation. The Union of International Cancer Control (UICC.org) backs me up with this fact sheet. Around the world, there is very extreme inequality in cancer care. Depending on your economic station and location in the world you may not have access to even the most basic resources and technologies. That’s just not right, I’m sure you’ll agree. We share my story with just about anyone who will listen not only to help give other patients hope and show what’s possible with great cancer care, but also to shine light on the extreme differences in quality of care available throughout the cancer community. That’s why I’ve become a patient advocate for CONQUER CANCER, the ASCO Foundation, and UICC.org.
Who Am I Doing This For?
Family first … I work hard every day to be strong and to be there for my amazing wife, Madelyn, and my beautiful daughter, Natalie. They are my world and they are with me every step of the way on this tough path. In fact, in our house, we say “We have cancer”, not “Mark has cancer”. It is their love that gives me purpose and the ability to take on anything we encounter on cancer mountain.
Along with other patients, our caregivers and our healthcare heroes … Throughout my extensive time in cancer centers and hospitals over the past few years, I’ve come to recognize I can do something many other cancer patients can’t. That is share my experience and show what’s possible … through cancer research breakthroughs … through the application of fantastic medical expertise … and through the love and support of family and friends. It’s my hope our story can be source of hope and inspiration for anyone and everyone out there on cancer mountain. It’s a really tough neighborhood and we are all in this together.
Be healthy. Be smart.
Get educated. Get screened. Support cancer research.
Keep rollin’. – MC