We can do better

Guest post by Leigh Pate


“We don’t know …

A cancer patient hears these words too many times during their treatment.  “We don’t know what caused it.  We don’t know if this treatment will work.  We don’t know if your cancer will come back. We don’t know how this treatment will damage your body.”  Patients and their families learn all too quickly how much is still unknown about cancer, even after decades of research trying to unravel this complicated disease.

Before my breast cancer diagnosis three years ago, my idea of fun was long distance biking … and I had happily cycled thousands of miles across the US, through India and on long rides with friends around Seattle.

Now, three years after treatment ended, I am about to ride ten miles  … and those ten miles could end up being the most important miles of my life.

Why?  Because this ten-mile ride is Obliteride, and it will raise money for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  And this ten-mile route, one of many options for Obliteride this year, will specifically benefit women’s cancer research.

These 10 miles could be our opportunity to end cancer.  And find better treatments.  And prevent cancer before it starts.  Because while the last decades have brought many important breakthroughs in understanding the genetics and triggers of cancer, we still don’t have a cure.  Treatments are still destructive.  And cancer still destroys too many lives and impacts too many families.

We can do better.

Since my treatment ended, I’ve watched a friend learn that her breast cancer had spread. And I watched her die a year later. Because there is STILL no cure for the 30% of women whose breast cancer will defy the early treatments and spread.

Another friend who made it through her breast cancer treatment was stricken with a brand new, unrelated lymphoma, and is still struggling to recover from debilitating side-effects of a brutal cocktail of chemotherapy treatment today.  Her lymphoma is so rare that the only research done at all was done on children.  She is hoping this same treatment will be effective for her … because they don’t know anything better to do for her.

And yet another with the breast cancer genetic mutation must decide whether to have the preventative radical surgeries to remove her breasts and ovaries – because right now those mutilating surgeries are her best chance of survival.

And for me, I spent a year in treatment, and then the next two years healing from side effects and damage from the current standard of care treatments for breast cancer – treatments known in the cancer world as “Cut/Poison/Burn” referring to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I received the same treatment for my cancer that women have received for over 30 years.

Simply, WE CAN DO BETTER.

And that’s why I registered for Obliteride – a bike ride August 9th where all the money raised will go specifically towards research Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  Why “The Hutch” when there are so many other cancer organizations?

Scientists at the Hutch pioneered lifesaving bone-marrow transplants.  They house the Women’s Health Initiative research program which linked hormone replacement therapy to breast cancer, heart disease and other deaths, and is preventing an estimated 20,000 women a year from developing breast cancer.  They helped develop the HPV (cervical cancer) vaccine.

And most exciting, they are a leader in immunotherapy research which shows great promise to treat and cure cancer – including breast cancer – with fewer brutal side effects than current treatments.

And the Hutch needs our support.  Deep cuts to government health research funding have forced leading cancer centers like the Hutch to turn to us … the patients and those who are most impacted by cancer … to continue their work.

And so I will ride this ten miles on August 9, and do my part alongside hundreds of other people touched by cancer around Seattle who will join together to ride or donate or volunteer or cheer.

Because everyone who participates in Obliteride knows we can do better to treat and cure cancer.  And we all understand that we must work together as a community to help the Hutch succeed in its mission.  And we know that we must move faster to find answers to all the questions that are currently answered by “We don’t know …”.  Because cancer certainly isn’t going to wait around before taking more lives and causing more heartache.

Will my single ten-mile bike ride cure cancer?  Probably not.

But while one person and one bike ride won’t cure cancer, a community that works together to invest in promising research for cures and treatments just might.

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