Friday, May 3, 2019

Insight: Hope and the moon

By Lorraine Glowczak

“If we have the capability and intelligence to land on the moon, how come we haven’t found a cure for (fill in the blank)?”

I often hear that question posed in references to cancer, ALS or other incurable diseases. I must admit; I wonder about that, too as we enter the month of May which is brain cancer and ALS awareness month. (Be sure to read Julie Brown’s article on page 7).

In the past year, I have either known or been aware of at least three people who passed away from brain cancer (all under the age of 35) and had one very close friend whose life was taken at the age of 36 from ALS. Although I haven’t physically been affected by these issues, I have watched them unfold and feel utterly helpless…..and sometimes, hopeless.

I know there have been positive strides to cure these horrible diseases, but for those of us who have witnessed loved ones lose their lives, the advances are not coming fast enough.

So, I’m curious – after billions of funds raised and many years of research, why hasn’t there been a cure for one or more of these dreadful maladies?

After doing a bit of research - the long and short of it is– cancer and other diseases are very complex beasts. According to the World Wide Cancer Research Center website, “Cancer is an evolving disease. Over time in every patient, cancer cells undergo a myriad of molecular and genetic changes. These changes shift what the cancer cells look like and how they behave. It makes them more resilient, more aggressive….

And, it seems that studying the mechanisms of ALS are much like studying cancer. It’s a constantly moving target and the mysteries of the human body are as vast as space itself. But should we let the unpredictable nature of cancer cells and ALS tarnish our hope for a future cure despite the odds?

There are some advances that, although are not cures, offer some optimism. For cancer there is:  genomic medicine, immunotherapy and the emerging field of cancer stem cells. For ALS there is Radicava and BrainStorm’s treatment program. And, perhaps just importantly – hope is always available to us if we so choose. Emily Dickinson said, “Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all…”

With hope, we can meet the challenges. With hope we gain an inner strength we did not know was possible. With hope, we can take more thoughtful actions. Where there is hope – there is life. And, it is conceivable that with the collective hope from all of us who have gathered under the darkness of the incurables – we can shoot for the moon – landing among the stars that will lead to a cure. 

Someday. Somehow.

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