My Responsibility to Society for Cancer Survival

Society helps move progress forward in cancer research, causing one survivor to ask, “How can I pay back that debt?”

As a survivor of melanoma, and a survivor of losing someone to melanoma, do I have a responsibility to society? It is my opinion there is no doubt that any medical progress made has been brought about by society overall. Our society recognizes the value and need for medical professionals and researchers. School alumni support higher education through donations. Corporations will donate money and lend a powerful voice to many awareness programs by incorporating issues into their advertisements, as well as incentive programs for their employees. That then brings me to us, the survivors. Individuals that have faced cancer and treatment or individuals that have supported, or are currently supporting, someone through a cancer journey. This is the body of which I am a part of and that I am speaking about. I am markedly aware that every piece of research, every medical treatment, every discovery was manifested out of a drive that was fueled by our society.

I ask myself: am I indebted to society for the medical treatments made available? My wife, though eventually succumbing to melanoma, would not have had even a hope of having lasted the four years she did. And without the education that journey had given me I would never have been aware enough to have had my own exam and diagnosis as early as I did. Thus, making me a survivor with an in-situ tumor which never made it to metastasis. When I mentioned earlier about the work of alumni and corporations, what I did not mention was their motivations. The individuals like us have a powerful voice when united. Corporations listen to that voice. We are the driving force by which money becomes research, which then becomes treatment, and which then becomes survival. The voice of society had spoken and actively brings about progress. Now, 13 years later, I see treatments and diagnosis tools that were just dreams at the time my wife was being treated. So, I would obviously have to answer in the affirmative.

Then comes the question of how can I pay back that debt? One thing I can do is find a platform and speak out, as I am doing here. With the advent of social media this can readily take many forms. I have spoken on a more personal level by telling my story to friends or family members. I have gone so far as approaching people in line at the grocery store, handling my interaction delicately and I have always received a positive response. Joining or supporting an event is a fun and interactive way to help while learning more about oneself. Taking it a step further, I can form a team, or as I am doing now, be the coordinator of a walk. And as a walk coordinator I can tell you the success of any walk relies heavily on the participants. The effort put in by the group reverberates back with an accumulative effect that is greater than the whole.

I’ve spoken of this responsibility as it applied to my life. Ask yourself now. Do I owe a debt to society? Is there something, even if it appears small, that I can do to contribute to the progress of research and treatment going forward? At this point I can tell you my initial motivation was not wholly altruistic. It was about finding an outlet for my grief. A way to heal. Over the years that motivation is still part of it. Going forward it has grown to include a desire for self-education mixed with a wish to prevent anyone else having to live out a story like mine. I ask you to now carve out a little time from your schedule and find something you can do to help continue the progress. We all benefit when we think about and do for others.

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