Monday, December 8, 2008

Don't Give Up. Don't Ever Give Up.

An individual named Dani repeatedly bugged me over the last several weeks. She wanted me to blog about Survivor Corps, a seemingly good organization that is dedicated to eliminating anti-personnel landmines around the world. On her first request I politely declined, citing that there are hundreds of good organizations, and since I can’t possibly blog about all of them, I won’t single hers out. On her last request to date I told her, “I can’t help you. Please stop emailing me.” I was impolite, and now, Dani, we’re even.

Seeing as how this is a cancer blog, there is one cause I will promote: more funding for cancer research. It is projected that 1.4 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2008; more than 500,000 will die.

Last week ESPN raised funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, a reputable non-profit organization that has raised over $80 million for cancer research. It is named after Jim Valvano, former N.C. State basketball coach who, against enormous odds, led his team to the 1993 NCAA National Basketball Championship.

In 1992 Jim Valvano was diagnosed with cancer, and died less than a year later. At the 1993 inaugural ESPY awards, Jimmy V gave one of the better speeches I’ve heard, along with Al Pacino’s “The inches we need are everywhere” speech from Any Given Sunday.

Jimmy V stared death in the eye and saw life. He died less than two months after his speech, but that didn’t stop him from finding joy, no doubt while suffering tremendously. He said, “If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day, that’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

I’m not big on crying (or thinking). Personally, I’d go with laugh, spend some time outdoors, and watch an old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Now that’s a day.

Jimmy V also said, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” I think he was referring to more than just surviving. He knew he was going to die. “Cancer can take away all my physical abilities; it cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul, and those three things will carry on forever,” he said. I think he meant that we shouldn’t give up on living, and we shouldn’t give up on hope—hope for a cure, if not now then in the future. That is his legacy.

For years Lance Armstrong has been saying that we need not millions of dollars for research, but rather billions. He is right. It is estimated to cost $1 billion for a single drug to pass through research and development. It is also said to cost $1 million for a single person to be treated for cancer. The V Foundation has raised a remarkable amount of money, but it’s not enough—it’ll never be enough until cancer is KO’d. (I’m not opposed to using the majority of resources strictly for breast or lung cancer research. If scientists learn how to make one of the biggest killers obsolete, then maybe they can learn how to nullify them all.)

The V Foundation gives 100% of all new direct cash donations to cancer research and related programs. Like Jim Valvano said: donate money, not for him, or for me, but for you, for someone you love, and for our kids.

Maybe Jimmy V's speech will change your mind...