Cancer is a monster. That's about the nicest thing I can say about it; I have a choice selection of four-letter words at my disposal, but as my editor has repeatedly reminded me, this is a family paper.
To fight cancer takes money, money to staff labs and pay researchers, money to buy lab rats and lab rat chow and grad student chow (you can often use the same stuff for both) and test tubes and lots and lots of boring clear-to-yellow liquids that never look as impressive as the stuff Hollywood imagines when they stock their super-science labs.
The need for this money means, as always, that we need to do some fundraising to help push the research along faster. Because if we don't dig into our own pockets, we'll be forced to leave it up to private industry (which would rather work on baldness cures and erectile dysfunction meds) or the government (the same people who decide how TransLink is funded. Be afraid!).
This weekend is the annual Langley Relay for Life, one of many fundraisers for the Canadian Cancer Society. As for the past five or six years (I'm actually starting to lose track) I'll be taking part, trucking around the field and dropping off some last-minute donations.
I've written about this event almost every year since it first began, but today, let's look forward and write about the Relays that haven't happened yet. The ones where we start to see the impact of the money we're raising today.
. Relay 2015: Entertainment includes a local singer fresh off of Canadian Idol; games include a tug of war unexpectedly won by a group of fifth graders. The Langley Township Firefighters vow to do better next year.
Noticeably, there are a few more survivors in yellow shirts than there were at the first few Relays a decade before.
. Relay 2020: Entertainment includes an augmented reality video game in the midfield; Township firefighters have yet to beat fifth-graders. Survivors group has swelled again, and now many of them are veterans of immunotherapy and targeted therapies.
. Relay 2030: Jon Bon Jovi performs as part of his I Am Really Retiring Now Final Tour. Firefighters beat fifth graders in tug of war, are promptly defeated in pie fight. Survivors are now extremely numerous, as there are very few types of cancer considered lethal. Many survivors have been treated with nanoparticles, personalized genetic therapies, and lasers.
. Relay 2050. No Relay this year. No survivors lap, because the distinction between "survivors" and everyone else is moot. Everyone is expected to survive cancer in much the same way that we expect we will all survive a bad cold.
This can happen, and probably sooner than 2050, if we have a little good luck and a lot of hard work on our side.
We don't always realize just how far we've come in the last 30 years, the last 20 years, the last decade.
Back in the late 1970s, Terry Fox was told he had a 50-50 chance of surviving the cancer that cost him his leg. Obviously, that's terrifying news, but Fox was also told that just a few years before, he would have had a meager 15 per cent chance of living.
It was that improvement, due to research and scientific study, that inspired him to raise more money.
Everyone in Canada who gets off the couch to take part in an event like a Terry Fox Run or Relay for Life is following his example.
So attend Relay. Here's hoping it's not around for that much longer, like cancer.