Monday, June 24, 2013


"You, you may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one"
John Lennon

I have to confess that I was surprised to learn that the War on Cancer was started by, none other than, Richard Nixon. Actually, it's more historically accurate to say that in 1971, while taking a break from promising to end real war in Vietnam, and dabbing his sweaty lip, President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act.

The introduction to the Act reads as follows:
Findings and Declaration of Purpose
SEC. 2.
(a) The Congress finds and declares:
(1) that the incidence of cancer is increasing and cancer is the disease which is the major health concern of Americans today;
(2) that new scientific leads, if comprehensively and energetically exploited, may significantly advance the time when more adequate preventive and therapeutic capabilities are available to cope with cancer;
(3) that cancer is a leading cause of death in the United States;
(4) that the present state of our understanding of cancer is a consequence of broad advances across the full scope of the biomedical sciences;
(5) that a great opportunity is offered as a result of recent advances in the knowledge of this dread disease to conduct energetically a national program against cancer;
(6) that in order to provide for the most effective attack on cancer it is important to use all of the biomedical resources of the National Institutes of Health; and
(7) that the programs of the research institutes which comprise the National Institutes of Health have made it possible to bring into being the most productive scientific community centered upon health and disease that the world has ever known.
(b) It is the purpose of this Act to enlarge the authorities of the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health in order to advance the national effort against cancer.

A worthy effort for sure that has clearly helped create more survivors like myself. It also turned the nation's attention toward what was the "leading cause of death in the United States" in 1971. Unfortunately, 40 years later, in 2011, cancer was still the leading cause of death in adults ages 45-64*.

Despite never using the term "war on cancer," the tone and imagery certainly hint at an all-out assault. The "attack" was going to be unleash the National Institute of Health, which was given carte blanche to use any means necessary in their fight against the "dread disease."

It's not hard to imagine the upbeat, can-do, spirit that must have been a part of putting together this Act. After all it was 1971; we had conquered space, Walt Disney World conquered Florida, Tony Orlando and Dawn conquered the pop charts with Knock Three Times, and Richard Nixon conquered common sense by installing a tape recording system in the oval office.

Yet, despite the "full-steam ahead" attitude, I can't help but wonder who the pacifist was that snuck in item number two, and referenced the possibility of coping with cancer. The idea that we might have to pull out of another war could not have been popular. However, the insight that resources should also be devoted toward "therapeutic capabilities," certainly sets the stage for a quality of life that includes cancer.

I was eleven years old the day this war began. Of course I had no way of knowing at the time that thirty-eight years later I would be counted as a victim, warrior, survivor? (I not even sure what to call myself anymore.) I am sure, however, that my pacifist roots were already growing strong, even back then, as I clearly remember groovin' to John Lennon's album Imagine; take that Tony Orlando and Dawn.

* source CDC 2011

1 comment:

  1. I too have no idea what to call myself. I had mastectomy in 2002, Malignant Thymus gland removed in 2007 and recently diagnosed with breast metastasis to bones. Still here, but figure the beast is gaining on me. Loved your article in Coping with Cancer..and glad I found your blog...