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Letter to the Editor: People should consider three areas in fight against cancer

By Val Bjork, Forman, N.D.

I am a Relay for Life volunteer in Sargent County and a volunteer on the North Dakota Relay for Life Advisory Council. I and many others raise money for the American Cancer Society. When someone asks “Why can’t our money stay in Stutsman County?” or “Why can’t we decide who gets the money we raise?” ... this is a my response.

There are three areas we need to consider in our fight against cancer — cancer patients, cancer prevention and cancer research. We need to fund all three areas in order to be successful and to put all of our dollars to the best use possible. We need to get the “biggest bang” for our buck! We all know people in our counties who could benefit from a few dollars of the money we raise for gas, lodging and groceries. If that is all we do, we will never find a cure for cancer or the education needed for prevention.

We do fund programs to directly benefit cancer patients. The American Cancer Society provides lodging, wigs and mastectomy products, rides to treatments, education, support programs and many other programs for cancer patients. Those are our dollars at work! But that can’t be all we do.

We just marked the 50th anniversary of the surgeon general’s report on smoking and health, which inspired efforts by many organizations, including the American Cancer Society, to implement quit-smoking programs and educate the public of the consequences of tobacco use and its link to many types of cancer. And because of that effort, 8 million lives have been saved. Without the dollars raised through our Relay for Life events, those efforts wouldn’t have been as successful. A link has now been discovered between cancer, poor eating and lack of exercise. The American Cancer Society is now putting a strong effort into this area of cancer prevention. Those are our dollars at work!

Someday there will be a cure for cancer. It will happen because of the dollars we raise at our Relay for Life events. Our dollars fund the world’s best and brightest researchers who pursue the answers on how to prevent, detect and treat all types of cancer. We currently have John Wilkinson, Ph.D., a cancer researcher at North Dakota State University. His research grant of $720,000 is in the area of prostate cancer, but his work is showing promise in also fighting pancreatic cancer. As of March 1, 883 research grants were funded by the American Cancer Society for a total of $448,143,101. Forty-eight American Cancer Society researchers have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. Those are our dollars at work!

This is why we relay and raise funds for the American Cancer Society.