Cancer research can be a very slow, cumbersome and expensive process, but until someone comes up with a better idea or discovers a miracle curative plant in the Amazon jungle, this is the way it has to work.
I've been involved in fundraising with cancer causes for 24 years. My first wife's long battle with ovarian cancer, which began in 1994, inspired me to donate my magic shows to kids in cancer camps. Many of us have walked or run a 10K race for cancer or donated directly to a cancer charity that resonates with us.
Cancer needs a cure (or "cures" since more than 200 versions of the disease have been identified) and a cure needs research.
And cancer research can be a very slow, cumbersome and expensive process, but until someone comes up with a better idea or discovers a miracle curative plant in the Amazon jungle, this is the way it has to work.
We need to keep feeding the funding machine, whether it's as individuals or corporate sponsors, until the work is done.
But fundraising of any kind is not without controversy. Money has a way of creating its own set of questions and pitfalls and fortunately, there are lots of people who are interested in where their money goes and in keeping an eye on it for the rest of us.
There has always been debate about how our dollars given to charities are actually spent, and rightfully so. "Administration costs" have been known to consume surprising amounts of what charitable organizations actually give to cancer research, so it's good to ask questions when you open your pocket book.
The American Cancer Society is one of the largest cancer fundraising organizations. In their expenses statement from 2015, they reported spending 25 percent of the money raised on administrative costs and fundraising expenses. In 2016, the Susan G. Komen organization spent about 22 percent of money donated on administrative costs and expenses. The point here of course is that more often than not, it takes money to make money.
But we can contribute in so many other ways besides giving money. Volunteering at a local hospital or hospice or a resale store that gives a portion of profits to cancer research is a great way to help. Writing articles and blogging, driving a survivor to doctor's appointments, sending cards and good wishes to cancer patients — the list is endless.
I never dreamed that I would one day be on the receiving end of cancer fundraising, but I've discovered my own best way to be of service to our cancer community that reflects my work, my passion and my kind of cancer.
I'm writing a full-length stage musical to bring the story of male breast cancer into mainstream conversation. This is no simple task, and certainly one that requires a lot of support to pull it off. I'm speaking of professional sound studios and singers to create the demo songs, stories from fellow male breast cancer survivors who are willing to contribute content and of course, dollars to pay for it. The real expenses will come later, involving set design, casting, touring arrangements and a host of other production costs.
So how does one convey the promise of a cancer project, the probability that it can change lives and the likelihood of success, to people you've never met?
How do we convey the integrity and honesty of a cancer objective to a public who has been "pinked" to pieces and is understandably suspicious of anything that hints of being unconventional? And what about an orphan disease like male breast cancer that doesn't get much press?
These are good questions which might give one a reason to retreat in terror from such a daunting proposal. But this cancer work is a cause that will not let us fade in our resolve. After all, every one of us, by virtue of the fact we have cancer, are driving research forward with our very presence.
And so, I push ahead with my small but hopefully significant part in awareness raising in the best way I know how.
We are all part of a gigantic "clinical trial" in our efforts to survive. Every procedure we endure, every office visit we schedule and every day we remain alive contributes to the universal knowledge bank of cancer awareness, prevention, detection and perhaps, one day, even eradication.