Sharing our Stories on World Cancer Day

The other day, I received one of those "free for a donation" sets of address labels. You know the ones; you dig them out at bill time, which is the only time anybody sends snail mail anymore. This one was from a cancer research group, and featured the various color-coded awareness ribbons.



I took a cursory glance, planning to file it away under "important junk" in my desk drawer. I was taken aback by all the ribbons. I knew pink, of course.  And purple is... ovarian, maybe? But all the stripes, and all the shades -- I was somewhat overwhelmed. Then it hit me:
For someone I know, each of these colors represents a person. Someone they love. Who may still be with us, or who likely isn't. This isn't a gimmick. It's life-altering.

Today is World Cancer Day. Here in Kentucky, the statistics are pretty staggering. As Dr. Mark Evers, Director of the University of Kentucky's Markey Cancer Center, recently said in an op-ed piece in the Lexington-Herald Leader:
Kentucky retains the dubious honor of ranking first in the nation in cancer deaths per 100,000 population among all states, and we have the second highest incidence rate for all cancer sites.

Unfortunately, we all have a cancer story. My mother has a disease that places her at high risk for cancer. For as long as I can remember, biopsies have been a waiting game -- a series of near-misses. I became weirdly immune to them. They'd always turn out okay. Then, one day, we got a biopsy result we never expected. My father was diagnosed. On that day, cancer went from "something you narrowly miss" to "something that will impact my life forever." 

View from the family waiting room at UK's Markey Cancer Center.

I think our sweet friend Allison Tamme perfectly summed up the feeling for many of us. In her recent HerKentucky interview, Allison discusses her her thyroid cancer diagnosis, saying:
It was the most terrifying moment of my life. Nothing will derail your life quite like the Big "C".
A wall of Kentucky Stories at UK's Chandler Med Center.
My daddy is, thankfully, okay now. It's not something our family talks about very much. It was a rough time in our lives, it's over and we're stronger for it.  We don't like to make a big production of it. We mountain folk are a resilient lot; we don't wallow.  But, you know,  it did happen, and it was huge, and it changed my life forever. And I'm happy to share a story that involves making proactive changes. So, here goes:
My father is a two-year cancer survivor.  We lost my fiancé's amazing grandmother to cancer a year and a half ago. At my house, we're making serious lifestyle choices to combat the prevalent cancer, diabetes, and heart disease rates in our hometowns and in our own families. We've overhauled our diets to mainly consist of lean protein and green leafy vegetables. We're going to the gym when we would far rather be sitting on the couch. We don't want to be just another Kentucky statistic.
Today, let's observe, honor, and celebrate by talking about it. How has cancer impacted your life? What are you doing to prevent it?