Painful Truth: Cancer gives a special clarity

When you find out that you or someone you love has cancer, it’s like a bucket of cold water to the face.

The doctor is talking about treatment and options and you’re just sitting there, not really hearing much. You’ll process it later.

The good news is that most people now survive their diagnosis. Canada is really good at getting people through treatment and out the other side. We benefit from our own research and that of other nations.

But we could still be doing more. We could be doing better.

A couple years ago, I wrote about how Canada could run its own moonshot style program.

We spend what sounds like a lot of money on cancer research. The Canadian Institute of Health Research spends just over a billion total on all kinds of science, although the money doesn’t all go to cancer.

Why not spend a full billion just on cancer research? A couple years ago I suggested spending more than $6 billion on cancer – equivalent to the percentage of funding the U.S. spent on getting a man on the moon in the 1960s. Awesome as that program was, it didn’t bring us as many direct, obvious benefits as curing cancer would.

So, with a new government in Ottawa, and Langley’s Relay for Life almost here, I thought I’d renew my call.

Hey, Justin Trudeau! You want to go down in history? Make Canada the world’s heavy hitter of cutting edge medical research.

The thing about spending money on curing diseases is that you tend to be paid back over time. It’s not a cost, it’s an investment in the future.

Spend the billions. Give grants to Canadian doctors and scientists, and draw the brightest minds from around the world to work here, too.

Set them loose on a project that will improve and extend the lives of millions of people around the world, for centuries to come. A project that will along the way unlock other discoveries about the human body, DNA, and biochemistry that will have untold spinoffs.

And if (when) we finish working on treatments for the last stubborn strains of cancer? Well, there’s plenty of other worthy projects. Cystic fibrosis and AIDS, malaria and ALS, Alzheimers and multiple sclerosis.

There’s a clarity to a diagnosis of a serious disease. You realize where your priorities lie very quickly. Politicians? Please prioritize.



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