I started writing this blog as a way to keep you all up to date on the goings on in the world of Peter McCleave and Myeloma. It was never my intention to use it as a platform from which I would vocalise any opinions beyond my experiences post diagnosis. But today, due to a variety of factors, my thoughts have kind of come to a head and it feels right and in keeping with my original goal of writing, to get them aired.
What I am about to say is not written with a lack of gratitude. It is not intended to denigrate the huge swathes of support either me or my campaign have received since inception.
To each and every person who has supported 10’000 Donors; you are the exception and I take heart from your engagement and belief in me.
What this is, is me reaching a limit of my own tolerance to the wider global population and our inactivity in the face of what, to me in any case, are clear and decisive facts.
I and we, have experienced the destructive impact of cancer on too many occasions and now is the time I want to call out a few observations and stimulate a debate where I hope I am proved wrong.
Back in 2018 when I started my campaign, it quickly became apparent that people in general, mobilise to act under 2 circumstances.
Something happens to them directly i.e. as with myself, or someone famous tells them to.
There are of course the altruistic few who regularly donate and give time to causes just because they are that way inclined; but I get the impression that those people are the outliers on the bell curve.
I am as guilty as anyone.
Nobody heard me bleating on about stem cell registration until I had the need to find myself a donor.
Even when faced with what are presented as serious facts to consider e.g. irreversible climate change or to be topical, cancer, as a populous we kind of acknowledge the problem but tend to carry on in the hope that it’ll be fine.
We might donate to Children in Need or Stand up to Cancer; but more often than not, we’ll carry on until life or Brad Pitt smacks us in the face.
There are a multitude of reasons for this. Self preservation, our own immediate life concerns and/or even that we just don’t care; to name but a few.
All totally valid.
As I have said previously, if we all tried to engage with every good cause, we would be mentally and financially drained to our own detriment.
But I guess my frustration today is centred around our collective inability to come together until it is too late.
Take cancer in its broadest sense.
According to Cancer Research UK, 1 in 2 of us will develop a cancer at some point in our lives.
Take a look around you wherever you happen to be reading this. See the commuters on your train? Your colleagues at their desks eating lunch, perusing BBC Sport while you take in my meanderings?
Draw an imaginary line down the middle and acknowledge the scale and gravity of the cancer epidemic.
Try doing this at a Premier League football game where 60’000 fans are in the stands and maybe that will put this into context.
Or as the odds would indicate, you are already facing up to a derivative of this most evil of diseases.
None of this is breaking news yet there is no collective response to the problem.
Call it Mad Cow disease or Bird flu and lo and behold, a government task force and a truck load of cash to (rightly) solve the problem manifests.
But call it cancer and, well, maybe its been talked about too much and we have become desensitised to it.
So many awesome cancer charities that are doing brilliant work but not a collective response to, and I’ll say it again, the epidemic of cancer.
I do not have an answer but let me pose a few inflammatory and unsubstantiated opinions to get the debate flowing.
To start with, I do not believe the all too readily rolled out statement that we are just better at diagnosing cases now a days. I think that we have been documenting this for long enough now to acknowledge when a trend is more than just a coincidence.
Take this frankly startling statement which again, is from Cancer Research UK:
“Since the early 1990s, incidence rates for all cancers combined have increased for all the broad age groups in the UK. The increase is largest in people aged 0-24 where rates have increased by a quarter (25%) “
What are young people being exposed to, to lead to such a broad increase in cases?
Why would the testicles of 2 of my good friends, both of whom are in my age bracket, develop cancer?
Why would the bowel and breasts of people close to me, who are maybe a generation above, suddenly develop cancer?
Why would 3 children who have not even left primary school, suddenly develop blood cancers?
Why would the thyroids of 2 very close friends become cancerous?
And these are just a few references to friends and family members in my immediate circle of connections.
And I could go on.
Let me throw some ideas around in answering the above in the hope that someone takes it upon themselves to sue the shit out of me.
At least then the debate might get the public airing I believe it deserves.
How about mobile phones and wifi? Plenty of industry figures quick to say there is a lack of evidence but why the hell wouldn’t a continual exposure to even low levels of these waves have an impact over time?
Even the smallest drip of water will eventually wear through the most stubborn of rocks.
Processed foods? Apparently for every 10% increased consumption of processed foods in our diet, there is a 12% increase in our likelihood of developing cancer.
This is not even me speculating to try and bait a response out of someone! These foods are on the shelves today. And we feed ourselves, our kids, our friends’ kids this stuff!
Alcohol. Yep, already directly aligned cause and effect.
With my limited education in this field, I will say that I do believe that genetics plays a part. And that sometimes just dumb bad luck makes an appearance.
But do I think there are other factors beyond nature that perhaps mankind is influencing?
Yes I do.
I might be wrong or I might be right or maybe somewhere in-between. I do not know nor at this current juncture do I care.
What I want to do is stimulate debate beyond what cuticle enhancing product Kim Kardashian happens to be promoting this week.
I do not want to be another lost generation. Where our kids look back and say “well, the signs were there but they just ignored them.” (think asbestos, thalidomide where there was no evidence until way too many people had their lives destroyed all in the name of trial and error)
How much worse can the odds of 1 in 2 actually get before we start tearing down political walls to be heard?
Unfortunately, our leaders only focus on what gets them votes or occasionally, what has affected them personally.
My own personal battle is with Myeloma and my work on stem cell registration will be my way of taking the fight to blood cancer;
but the war is against cancer.
I do not meant to come across as pompous, but I do now acknowledge my historical selective blindness; even when I was faced with friends and family who were blighted by the disease.
Easily said when on the other side.
So I am trying not to be insular and self serving. I am trying to be a voice for everyone; whether you have been directly exposed or not.
Sadly, if you are reading this, chances are this is nothing more than an echo chamber of opinions that perhaps you mostly agree with.
So until someone famous sticks their head above the parapet and starts banging the drum, I guess we all return to business as usual.