Eighteen years ago my mother, Joan Ulrich Couzens, died of cancer. Months before Mom's death, I presented her with a sword for her bravery. Then I told her cancer could never touch her heart. I gave her the sword because it represented the warrior she was during her lifetime. Cancer never did take Mom's heart, but it shattered mine.
Today that sword leans against my fireplace. It serves as a reminder that the war on cancer is far from over.
As I reflect on friends and family, so many have been taken by cancer.
In my family, my mom, sister, Anne, brother-in-law Mike and most recently my brother, Frank -- all gone too soon, not from accidents or old age, but rather cancer.
My siblings and I recently gathered for a morning observance of immediate family members that had died. We metaphorically toasted our loved ones over coffee and doughnuts. Great men and women who would never be defined by their cancer but rather their accomplishments and as contributors to the human race. These people were doers. They took care of business, they took care of their families and they were guardians to their communities. I have been enormously blessed to have had them in my life.
In my work for LessCancer.org I know it can be different. There is much evidenced-based science that tells us that cancer is preventable. Yet, despite the science, we currently do not have the right combinations of leadership and the mechanics for the answers to make it a reality for everyone.
When is the last time you heard a lawmaker say: "Cancer is epidemic, and today I give you my commitment to get answers."
The cancer conversation needs to be different. It needs be about preventing cancer altogether. I would have given anything to see a cure for all the people in my life with cancer. It is clear, our focus needs to be on cancer prevention addressing further sharp increases in incidence of cancer.
This year the American Cancer Society celebrates their 100th year. Let's not wait another hundred years for answers.
We have more cancer, not less.
For many of us, we have seen firsthand that treatment is frequently not the solution.
Is the legacy we provide for our next generation more cancer?
Some of the communications that I receive from people fighting a cancer battle ask me to not give up the work of LessCancer.org.
They want us, as an organization to keep asking the hard questions for answers on cancer prevention.
That's what we are doing, and we are not giving up.