12/08/2010 05:18 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Jimmy V, Elizabeth, Aretha & The Economics of Cancer

Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.
-- Jim Valvano

Two seemingly unrelated news events took place last week.

It was Jimmy V Week on ESPN. The Jimmy V Week focuses attention on cancer research supported by the V Foundation.

The V Foundation is named for Jim "Jimmy V" Valvano, the former North Carolina State basketball coach and ESPN announcer who died in 1993.

In the past two days, we have lost Elizabeth Edwards to cancer and found that Aretha Franklin was diagnosed as well.

At the same time, word slipped out that in 2008 Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve Board advanced several TRILLION dollars in bailout money to companies all over the world.

American dollars were used to prop up "too big to fail" banks in countries we never even heard of.

Bernanke conveniently kept the trillions hidden from the American public until the Fed was forced to disclose the information to Congress.

I've complained since Day One about the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. That bailout turned out to be chump change when compared to what Bernanke was throwing around. The Wall Street bailout was passed by Congress, and some congressmen lost their seats over their votes to approve it.

Bernanke gave away way more money... and in total secrecy!

Cancer research is another area where we are spending chump change. Cancer victims don't have Bernanke to act as their "Secret Santa."

President Obama, who lost his mother to cancer, made a campaign pledge to increase cancer research spending. Yet the budget for the National Cancer Institute is roughly $6 billion.

Compare that to what we are spending on Wall Street banks.

Bernanke and the Federal Reserve spent $290 billion on mortgage securities from the German Deutsche Bank and $287 billion on mortgage bonds from Credit Suisse, a Swiss bank.

Germany and Switzerland are not part of the United States.

Cancer is.

It is a leading cause of death worldwide. It doubled globally between 1975 and 2000 and will double again by 2020.

Like many Americans, cancer is very personal to me.

My friend, Dr. Keen Babbage, is battling cancer. Dr. Babbage is a longtime educator in Lexington, Kentucky, who has recently written his 13th book. Keen is totally devoted to making a difference in society.

I want him to keep making that difference for decades to come.

Thanks to a non-profit website called, I follow Keen's battle on a daily basis.

It is gut-wrenching to read daily about his intense pain, but the technology allows me to follow his progress and to let him know of my prayers and concern.

I had never heard of before Keen's illness, but I will recommend it to everyone I know who is dealing with cancer.

Caringbridge is a small technological tool that can make a difference. I keep thinking that a country that can create wonderful technology (I'm typing this on an iPad) could defeat cancer if we spent the dollars and resources needed to go after cancer in a big way.

We declared war on cancer 40 years ago. Like many recent wars, we are leaving our cancer troops under-funded, without the kind of support they need.

We have become a nation where our leaders can throw billions at places like Goldman Sachs, which does nothing to touch the lives of average Americans, but underfund the war against cancer, which touches almost every American family.

Someone in Washington has their priorities screwed up.

As Jimmy V said in his 1993 ESPY's speech, we need to put cancer on the front burner.

Jim Valvano's battle was intensely personal to me. My 58-year-old father and Jimmy V were both diagnosed with cancer in June 1992. Both dad and Jimmy V died in early 1993.

Dad drew a lot of strength from the courage that Jimmy V displayed. Ironically, Valvano's 1993 ESPY award speech, one of the greatest speeches in history, happened on the day of my father's funeral.

Each year ESPN replays that speech. Each year I watch it. And, each year, I cry.

The V Foundation does great things. It's raised more than $100 million and uses 100 percent of new cash donations to fund cancer research.

However, it counts on donations. The V Foundation can't devote billions that a federally-funded war on cancer can amass.

I want my money to be finding a cure for cancer. I want the resources to be available so that people who really make a difference, like Keen Babbage, can get back to their life's work.

Curing cancer sounds mind-boggling. Just like spending trillions of dollars in bailouts sounds mind-boggling.

It's all a matter of attitude, priority and focus. The focus needs to be on cancer on Main Street, not investment bankers on Wall Street, Germany and Switzerland.

Jimmy V's motto was "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."

In the war against cancer, a better motto is from the Revolutionary War navel fighter, John Paul Jones, who said, "I have not yet begun to fight."

It's time for America to get to fighting.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC of Richmond Kentucky is an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor.

You can read more about Don at

McNay founded McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement and financial consulting firm, in 1983, and Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC in 2000. You can read more about both at

McNay has Master's Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Hall of Distinguished Alumni of Eastern Kentucky University.

McNay has written two books. Most recent is Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery

McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations in the financial services field.