While I was out working on my story about the Iowa Cancer Summit today, one of the women I was interviewing said something that really hit home, in a scary way. She said that if you think about it, just about every single person has at least one person they know who has been diagnosed with cancer. The scariest part of that is I can name eight, which I realized isn’t that unusual.
Each of these people inspire me in some way- their strength, their optimism, their selflessness, their faith. But one woman in particular has just left me in awe from the beginning of her battle.
My aunt and godmother, Terry, was diagnosed with breast cancer about 8 years ago now. I remember when I found out that first time. I was devastated. I remember exactly where I was when I found out it was now in her brain, and she needed immediate surgery- I was in Florida on vacation, and I felt like the ground had dropped out from under me. I remember feeling physically ill and completely helpless when I found out it had spread further, to her stomach and lung. But then, I remember her strength and her smile, as every year she continues to defy the odds, even to the surprise of some of her doctors.
As I said, it’s eight years later. She is still on medication, and sometimes, as she admits, the side effects and the pain nearly take over. But her strength is unwavering. It’s more than strength. It’s faith. She believes God has healed her. Now don’t be mistaken- it’s not denial. She is seeking medical help and advice, but it’s her faith that gives her strength. It gives us all strength. It’s hard to explain really, how that fear that so often accompanies the terrible disease of cancer can subside when she smiles. It’s probably because it goes straight to her core. It’s not a “don’t worry I’m fine smile” plastered there just to calm all of us that love her. It’s genuine calm. It’s genuine peace. And it is truly inspiring.
Before I went out to shoot my story, I had some extra time to do some research. What I found, specifically for Iowa was a little overwhelming. I included some of these stats in my story that aired on tonight’s 10:00 and 9:00 newscasts, but they didn’t all fit, so here’s a few more stats about cancer in Iowa.
Some of the top causes of cancer deaths in the United States:
- Tobacco 30%
- Adult diet/obesity 30% (more than 60% of Iowans are overweight or obese)
- Sedentary lifestyle 5%
- Occupational factor 5%
- Family history of cancer 5%
The “top three” cancers (estimated) in 2012:
- Prostate: Approximately 2,640 diagnoses
- Breast: Approximately 2,350 diagnoses
- Lung and bronchus: Approximately 2,330 diagnoses
Those numbers are nothing sort of terrifying in my opinion. But like the woman I interviewed today pointed out:
“It is scary to think about all that you can and should know about how to prevent cancer, but again the more we can bring people together and put our work together the more effective it will be.” (Kelly Sittig, ICC)