As I walked the Gettysburg Battlefield, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; I am taken in by the sword wielding angel that holds a stance on top of the Pennsylvania monument.
Athena, the Goddess of Victory and Peace, is a focal point of the monument commemorating the 34,530 Pennsylvania soldiers who fought at Gettysburg. The pavilion is the largest monument on the Gettysburg Battlefield.
Gettysburg is powerful and impressive; yet one cannot help but wonder about the tens of thousands of the lives that were lost in the place I now walk.
It is a simple leap to imagine the war sounds of gun fire, canons, and the screams of pain, agony, fear, and death.
The obvious metaphor for a modern day Gettysburg of course for me would be the increased incidences of cancer.
When war broke out in 1861, boys joined the military. As many as 20% of Civil War soldiers were younger than 18. Many of these children enlisted as musicians: drummers, fifers, or buglers. Reportedly once a battle began, children often armed themselves — to save their own lives or the lives of their friends.
51,112 died at Gettysburg. As many soldiers died in combat at the Battle of Gettysburg than during Vietnam .
The Center For Disease Control reports that each year globally, 12.7 million people learn they have cancer, and 7.6 million people die from the disease.
What would the monument look like for six-year old cancer warrior, Hugh Wiley that cancer fatally wounded? Hugh’s mother Erica Wiley recently spoke at the National Cancer Prevention Day briefing on Capitol Hill.
National Cancer Prevention Day is a resolution sponsored by Congressman Steve Israel. It is a Less Cancer initiative and the one Cancer day that does not have big sponsorship, marketing, or hype. It is a day devoted solely to the public interest the prevention of Cancer.
In the spirit of the day, Mrs. Wiley made a moving appeal. She said,” We make choices everyday: individually, as a society, as a nation and a world. We make choices about what we want in life, from daily choices -what we will eat for breakfast and what stores we will frequent – to policy-making choices – who we will vote for and how we will give back to our communities. Do we choose to accept that a growing percentage of our children will have Cancer or tumors …that this will be our new ‘normal’? Or, are we going to listen to the alarms going off in our heads that tell us that something is very, very wrong and, instead, ask our policy makers for something different.”
Wiley added, “Wouldn’t it be better to prevent children from getting Cancer in the first place? Isn’t the solution to Cancer to eliminate the cause? Isn’t the solution Prevention?”
Suzi Tobias who also spoke said, “We can work to find a way for business and industry to ally their products and practices with the needs and health of people without intruding on their ability to succeed. We must find the balance between a healthy economy and our nation’s health.”
In the New York Times Story today by Denise Grady we read that too little of the money the federal government spends on breast cancer research goes toward finding environmental causes of the disease and ways to prevent it, according to a new report from a group of scientists, government officials and patient advocates established by Congress to examine the research. No surprise.
Suzi Tobias, in her comments in the National Cancer Prevention Day briefing had said; “We cannot simply treat cancer. To invest all of our resources in treatment without prevention is a flawed approach—it’s defensive and reactive. If we want Less cancer, we need an approach that is offensive and proactive.”
The shift is going to come when we as a country decide cancer prevention is the priority.
Our focus on cancer has been on the individual battles and not the war at all. Our focus has been helping the uncountable millions of individuals that have fallen prey to this dreaded disease supplying much needed treatment but have had little to no focus on prevention all together.
We see some movement on this for instance groups doing good work like Safer Chemicals and Healthy Families and the Safe Chemicals Act by Senator Lautenberg U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ).
When we work to prevent cancer risks, it impacts human health, the environment and the economy.
When we work for Less Cancer – reduced incidences of cancer we inturn address illnesses such as Diabetes, Asthma, Heart Disease and Obesity.
The environment influences cancer rates and risks.
The war on cancer will only be won if we lead with prevention.