I sat next to my father at the dining room table as he found the opening to blurt: “I have cancer.” The world went silent.
Cancer is an interesting disease because rarely does it impact its victims similarly. As the disease effects everyone differently, so do the treatments. For instance, a treatment designed for lung cancer patients, may benefit someone suffering from breast cancer. With so many types of cancers and treatment options, doctors select a few plans to inform their patients about the ‘best’ treatment options.
Like many other cancer patients, the doctor’s idea of ‘best’ was not my father’s idea of ‘best.’ He did not think radiation was necessary, nor was the alternative surgical option. There had to be more than two options, right?
So, like any millennial, I turned to the internet for answers, but all I found was support group after support group. Even Facebook and Twitter had groups to share experiences and hardships. But I did not want the group sessions and blogs, I wanted: facts, trials, options.
Scrolling through Facebook over a year later, I finally found them. Vice President Joe Biden initiated a movement to hold researchers accountable for their studies’ actual outcomes and continue to research treatment options. The Cancer MoonShot 2020 initiative collaborates with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) which is researching immunotherapy treatments.
Previously these trials and treatment plans meant nothing to me. The terminology and assumed knowledge of the audience was beyond my half-finished liberal arts degree. Thankfully, its communication strategy made a challenging topic more understandable for me. Its YouTube channel made cancer and their immunotherapy treatment studies understandable. Immunotherapy targets an individual’s immune system to fight the disease/cancer. People can either naturally stimulate the immune system or utilize man-made immune system proteins.
Over the next few months I began noticing the Cancer MoonShot 2020 initiative via newspaper, radio, internet, everywhere! Frequently they tweet new #immunotherapy studies and in-depth #cancer information. The shout-outs to @Moonshot2020 gave personal testaments to the disease that effects millions.
When I sat in the dining room watching my father reiterate the doctor’s treatment plans, he became part of the million. But exploring the countless options the Cancer MoonShot 2020 program exposed me to my father’s cancer and treatment was individualized – he was one, despite the millions.