Lately, in the midst of all the insanity going on in the world and the ensuing, albeit dispiriting, headlines covering all things COVID-19, there has been a notable lack of attention to other illnesses, namely cancer.
Yet, last week, as I absorbed the news of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s (RBG) passing due to complications of pancreatic cancer, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated. It seems cancer has become so ubiquitous and, sadly, so normalized that many no longer bat an eyelid upon hearing that yet another person has lost their life to this cruel disease. But for those of us in the cancer community, it’s hard not to be deeply affected by these deaths.
RBG survived several bouts of cancer over two decades of her life. She was a fierce defier of gender boundaries, a champion in the fight for equality, the second woman appointed to a traditionally male Supreme Court, a caretaker for her late husband, and a feminist icon for women everywhere — and she did it all while going through the unthinkable.
Additionally, last month, the world learned of the death of the Black Panther, actor Chadwick Boseman, who died from colon cancer at just 43 — a diagnosis he understandably kept private.
Fame is a strange concept. I’m hyperconscious of not over-glorifying people simply for being talented or placed in the limelight. Granted, it feels odd to mourn the death of a stranger. Yet, there is something to be said about the emotions one feels when these larger-than-life characters are taken away, particularly when it’s from cancer, an illness so many of us have such an intimate and personal relationship with. Much like the suicide of Anthony Bourdain or Robin Williams might impact those battling depression, the passing of Boseman and RBG really affected me.
I suppose it was simply another reminder that none of us are truly untouchable in the eyes of this illness.
The reality is that about 450 people die from cancer every day in the U.K. alone. Yet, all we seem to read and hear about these days is the coronavirus. I’m in no way trying to minimize the devastating impact or severity of this novel virus, but rather trying to bring back some attention to another widespread disease, one that has become so commonplace it fails to elicit much concern from the media and the masses these days.
I can’t help but question: Where are all the headlines? Where is the urgent international effort to tackle this pervasive disease that has existed for a whole lot longer than COVID-19?
Much like conflict in the Middle East or climate change, when something goes on for a long time, it understandably begins to lose traction. It doesn’t elicit the same fear factor or panic that something as novel or unknown as COVID-19 does. I get it. Yet, the reality is that cancer is a bigger killer than COVID-19 and it doesn’t discriminate. Not even when it’s up against real-life heroes like RBG or Marvel superheroes like Boseman.
My heart aches even more for the silent fighters, those who don’t make the headlines, the ordinary folk like you and me, those quietly battling this illness in hospital beds the world over. Those unable to have visitors while they receive treatment, those who can’t access treatment right now, or those who’ve been stuck inside for months on end unable to leave due to their vulnerability.
My heart aches for the hundreds of people who comment daily in cancer Facebook groups about their struggles, side effects, hair loss, lack of insurance, worries, hopes, and fears.
I suppose I simply want to say, in the midst of everything that is going on, let us not forget those who wake up every day and carry on despite terminal diagnoses, crippling fatigue, and the uncertainty of knowing when or what their outcome will be.
Cancer deserves its place in the headlines, it deserves attention, it deserves to be fought for. Its survivors and warriors deserve to know that we see them, we honor them, and that they are truly heroes.
Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lymphoma News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.
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