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Knowledge Is Power: How NBC’s ‘The More You Know’ Influenced My Cancer Experience

Article

A breast cancer survivor discusses how researching cancer risks and environmental factors made her feel better equipped with information against the disease.

Francis Bacon coined the phrase “knowledge is power,” and most people would probably agree with him. But sometimes, too much knowledge can be a hinderance leading to overwhelming anxiety and stress.

When cancer entered my world in 2014, I was determined to learn everything I could about it. For the past seven-plus years, I have done and continue to do research in hopes of learning all I can about this unseen enemy. I recently learned some helpful information from Dr. Jason Fung, a Canadian nephrologist who deals with metabolic disorders and cancer research.

Before I talk about Dr. Fung and the information he shared, I feel the need to give you a little background on the topic of this post. In 1989, NBC launched a program called “The More You Know.” The program was designed to provide brief public service announcements.

NBC came up with a catchy logo and music to garner interest, but what made the announcements a resounding success was the use of popular actors and actresses to convey messages. Those attention-grabbing TV spots were powerful. I remember one in particular, done by beloved actress, Betty White. Her spot-on literacy was less than a minute long but something she said touched me — “The more you read, the more you know, the better you do in school, the better you do in life, that’s a promise.” What a powerful statement.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was determined to learn everything I could about the disease. I had very little knowledge at that time and felt ill prepared to face the road ahead. I knew it would be difficult and challenging, but other than that, I knew nothing behind the disease — its causes, treatments and the projected outcomes. So, I became a voracious reader.

Soon, I had an entire library of books about breast cancer. I gleaned as much information as my brain could hold underlining and highlighting important facts along the way. And even now, almost eight years post-cancer diagnosis, I’m still interested in knowing more about the disease. Now I’m not a famous actress, nor am I anything other than a survivor of breast cancer, but I hope something I share in this mini public service announcement — also known as a blog post — will prove helpful.

Recently, I listened to a YouTube video called “This Causes Cancer — Fix This to Prevent Disease” by Dr. Fung, who wrote a book called “The Cancer Code.” As he discussed his book with the host of the show, I was intrigued. Dr. Fung was sharing new information and gave me a lot of food for thought. Though I haven’t read his book yet, I put it on my list of must-reads.

I was surprised to hear Dr. Fung talk about cancer cells being found in Hydra. I hadn’t studied about Hydra since ninth grade biology, but I remembered what they looked like. My biology professor had shown us a video of the creature — an odd tree stump shaped organism with long tentacles protruding from its head.

Those tiny, multicellular organisms were found in fresh water all over the world. Who would have ever imagined something so small could develop cancer? But apparently, some German scientists discovered they had indeed and Dr. Fung accepts their research as valid.

Dr. Fung believes cancer to be an evolutionary disease and feels it develops through gene mutations. In the YouTube presentation, he gave the example of a seed being planted in soil. The seed cannot grow without the proper environment — water, nutrients, etc. The same goes with cancer; Dr. Fung mentioned cancerous cells need the right “pressure” to mutate and grow. External risk factors such as tobacco smoking, obesity, exposure to harmful pesticides and chemicals are just a few of the stimulators that prompt cancer to grow.

Dr. Fung also explained that cancer cells are normal cells that have mutated. For example, a lung cell is a specific cell that has been encoded with genetics to grow a lung. Once the lung has formed, the cells don’t continue to multiply and grow more lungs, but when one of those cells is damaged or mutates, it will not only continue to multiply and grow abnormally, it will also travel or metastasize.

The more I listened, the more I learned and the more I wanted to know.

We may never completely understand the cause of cancer, what causes it to grow and why some are affected by it and some are not, but scientists are continuing to do research.

We do know tobacco smoking is a key component in causing lung cancer, but did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity contributes to 13 different types of cancer? That’s scary!

The more you know about the causes behind cancer, the better equipped you’ll be to fight it. If you can do something to better your odds, wouldn’t you want to do it? If losing weight could reduce the “pressure” applied to the risk of getting cancer, wouldn’t it make losing a few pounds a necessity?

Dr. Fung is a brilliant man with a lot of interesting ideas about various topics, but his research on cancer intrigues me the most. I hope you found something of interest in this post and you read something you didn’t already know.

Cancer is a confusing and often deadly disease, but the more we know and the more we share, we can make a difference in research and treatment options and hopefully do better in life, as Betty White promised.

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