Three weeks ago, Jeff and I had the opportunity to be part of a Children’s event in Palm Desert, California. We shared a brief bit of our journey with Ben and were honored to introduce Dr. Jensen, who shared about his research and the hope that lies ahead in terms of treating and curing childhood cancer.
As I was listening to him speak all the way down in California, I remained struck and in awe of what is happening here in Seattle. If we lived in many other places in the US, or world for that matter, we could not be part of the cutting edge work that is developing in terms of pediatric cancer research. But we are in a city that is on the forefront of scientific development. Science was never my strong suit. I actually had a tenth grade biology teacher tell me once that it would be hard for me to do well in his class, as I was a cheerleader. I learned later that it was hard to do well in his class because he was a horrible teacher. But I can be a cheerleader of science.
Recently I came across a CNN interview with Michael J. Fox. He was talking about his twenty-year journey with Parkinson’s and the work his foundation is doing to advance research for this disease. I was so touched by what he said and this quote specifically: “Cures don’t just fall out of the sky. We have to go get them.” How very true. Pediatric cancer is left vastly behind in terms of research dollars. The NIH only gives 3% of its funding to all childhood cancers. Breast cancer, prostate cancer and many other adult cancers have national movements and highly recognized branding. Yet, childhood cancer is the number one disease killer of children. Number one. We believe this is because children don’t have a voice. They do not vote. They cannot stand up and say, “this is not okay” in a way that demands attention.
But we can. And we will continue to do so. We are standing with Dr. Jensen and his research, which believes that children (and adults) can defeat cancer from within. That we can re-train their immune cells to kill the cancer itself. To re-program if you will, without the damaging side effects to their minds and bodies that are currently happening because of chemotherapy and radiation. That is what we are after. This is what we collectively are “going to get”. And as Dr. Jensen said during his presentation, it is no longer a matter of “if” we can do this. It is a matter of “when”. The science is there. Now it is about time and money.
We cannot do the science part ourselves, but we have aligned our foundation with people who can. The Center for Childhood Cancer here in Seattle is set to open in just a few months. And our role is to accelerate research. To be cheerleaders for a cure. Perhaps a little less flexible than we used to be, but if the skirt fits – wear it.