The Best Part About Having Cancer Today


I feel fortunate to have my disease in this time of accelerated innovation

I believe I know what you may be thinking right now. There is no "best part" about cancer. Naturally, I'd rather choose to have a lot of other forms of illness besides my own (male breast cancer). But having cancer in 2019 does have its advantages. If you follow cancer news, especially the in-depth coverage that CURE provides every day, you may find it somewhat comforting to know that new cancer therapies are being discovered and reported on constantly. While it's hard to digest all the news and its implications, it's easy to see that the advancements in the art of cancer detection, medication and eradication are moving swiftly forward. And when it comes to education, there is a wealth of promising news available to all of us. We see it dispersed across the Internet and making the headlines in print and video.

But it's up to us to self-advocate; we should constantly be seeking out the information that may apply to our own types of cancer— at least to the degree we are able to comprehend as laypersons in this wide-ranging field of medicine.

Just this week, there were several new stories of possible big breakthroughs in cancer with hints of a cure on the horizon. We've seen these pronouncements with some regularity over the years, so most of us take a cautionary stance when discoveries with big promises appear (especially without peer review). Our hope, of course, is that one day before long it will come to pass. But in the meantime, I do feel fortunate to have male breast cancer in this day and time when it is finally being acknowledged in a very “pink” world. And I'm still campaigning for it to become a part of mainstream conversation.

My wife died of ovarian cancer 22 year ago this month. The protein known as the cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) was discovered in the early 1980s and soon after, CA-125 testing became standard for patients with (or who may have) ovarian cancer. It was relatively new when my wife's diagnosis of stage 3 cancer was diagnosed. If she had been diagnosed today, advanced options for survival would have been more widely available, thanks to advances such as CA-125 tests and new drugs and therapies.

As another example of the evolution in cancer treatment that many contemporary cancer survivors rely on is the anti-nausea drug Zofran (ondansetron). It was granted U.S. patent protection in 1987 and was approved by the FDA in 1991. My wife was fortunate enough to receive early clinical trial doses of the drug. But now, more than two decades later, it's widely available and certainly less expensive than it was back then at over $100 a dose.

The future will always offer newer, better options for all of us. It makes no sense to feel sorry that we weren't born later in the path of human development and progress. As I see it, the best time to be alive is right now. After all, each of us with a cancer diagnosis plays a significant role in the quest for a cancer-free world. It may not happen in my lifetime, but I believe it will be part of our future. I can imagine a day when someone says, "Remember back in 2019, when cancer still existed?"

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