Celebrating 14 million cancer survivors
By Ignacio Lobos, Hutchinson Center External Communications Editor
Over the past several months, our writers have put together several stories for Quest magazine—one of the Hutchinson Center’s main science publications—on the progress being made against cancer.
Our current issue celebrates the 14 million cancer survivors living among us, all of them examples that research does indeed save lives.
There were a little more than 2 million survivors when this nation declared a war on cancer in 1971. By 1990, that number had grown to seven million, and it’s expected to reach 20 million by 2020.
But as our cover story illustrates, cancer remains a formidable foe—and a cure is not enough.
These are points that have been repeatedly made by researchers here at the Hutchinson Center and other institutions, and we have written about these concerns in many articles.
Cancer treatment remains a challenging undertaking. Both the disease and its treatment are extremely hard on the body. And when a cure is available, it still means many survivors are likely to deal with long-term effects.
That’s why several of our researchers are working on survivorship issues, including Dr. Karen Syrjala, who is exploring mysterious musculoskeletal pain that affects many survivors.
The upside of her work’s implications, as Center science writer Justin Matlick wrote, “could extend far beyond musculoskeletal problems. Survivors vulnerable to musculoskeletal problems are also vulnerable to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other maladies. Syrjala hopes research will reveal mechanisms that help unravel these other issues as well.”
“What’s so exciting about this is that we think there’s a lot of overlap between these long-term problems after cancer treatment,” Syrjala told Matlick.
Also in the current issue of Quest, we interviewed more than a dozen survivors and asked them to share what it means to be a cancer survivor.
“Survivorship is both a gift and calling,” David Hiller told us.
“I do not run from this disease. I embrace it and fight it with every bit of treatment and knowledge that I can,” breast cancer survivor Connie Riddle said.
Susan Sontag, an American author who died from complications of acute myelogenous leukemia, wrote, “Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick.
“Altough we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”
This nation’s 14 million cancer survivors may find a lot of truth in her words, but they most certainly have their own. Don’t miss their stories in Quest, and if you have any others to share with us, let us know.