THE BLOG
11/17/2014 10:50 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Mom, 19 Years Later

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(My Mom, Joan Ulrich Couzens, and me as a toddler.)

Nov. 15 was the 19th anniversary of my mom's death from cancer.

Since that time, there has been some progress with diagnoses and therapy; however, the reality is today we have more incidences of cancer, not less.

Since my mom's death, I have lost my sister, brother, other family members and a few friends from cancer.

While I am relieved Mom was spared the experience of saying goodbye to her children, I have wished she had known my children, who are now adults.

My mother was a smoker and died from small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Her cigarette of choice was Kent, the asbestos-filtered cigarette once promoted and demonstrated at a Convention of the American Medical Association.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that worldwide, tobacco use causes more than 5 million deaths per year. Current trends show that tobacco use will cause more than 8 million deaths annually by 2030.

Recently, a cancer treatment advertising campaign came to my attention. I discovered the multi-media interactive campaign was complete with contests and even an NFL football experience providing cancer patients a high-fiving opportunity with a football team as they ran onto the stadium field. Today cancer is packaged to be something more like Disney than the wicked disease that has taken so many loved ones.

What if these football players were "high-fiving" those that quit smoking? How about celebrating and encouraging steps towards prevention as the best option to fight cancer.

While unthinkable we, unfortunately, have the likes of Wendy's fast food in the lobbies of cancer institutes serving up food that is anything but healing. Fast food, not unlike smoking, especially in cancer hospitals of all places, is not only unthinkable, it's unacceptable.

The evidence is well-documented. We know the cancer risks of smoking, poor diet, excessive alcohol, tanning and sexually-transmitted infections. Experts report that up to 50 percent of incidences of cancer are preventable. These are cancer risks that communities; individuals and families can have a role in preventing.

We need all resources on board to prevent increasing incidences of cancer including those heath providers who despite pressure to fill beds must work to support prevention efforts. Can you imagine the impact if the efforts went towards marketing prevention over treatment?

I cannot rest with the cancer strategy of the last 100 years and neither should you. In honor of my mom, and all those we have loved and lost to cancer lets not turn a blind eye to the suffering cancer brings and work to stop cancer before it starts.

We have a duty to our country and future generations to work towards turning around the grim statistics of sharply increasing incidences of cancer. We need increased resources for information, education and policies to help protect individuals, families and communities from cancer.