Jun 17, 2018Father’s Day
A father shouldn’t need to answer the question “What would you like to do on Father’s Day” with “I’d like to visit my son’s gravesite.” For thousands of dads across the country today, this day is bittersweet, as bereaved fathers are reminded that a part of what made them a whole person is now gone forever.
Childhood cancer is a larger problem than most people realize. Although certain types of childhood cancer—notably the most common type leukemia—have 5-year survival rates of 80-90%, many other types of childhood cancer have a survival rate of zero. Further, even those childhood cancers boasting relatively high 5-year survival rates, fully two-thirds or more of those affected children will suffer significant to severe long-term complications from the “treatments” that were supposed to save their life. Sam’s Foundation exists to fund research for childhood cancers that are currently death sentences to those who contract them and funds research aimed at finding safer, more effective treatments for all types of childhood cancer. By focusing on these two critical aspects of the problem of childhood cancer we hope to benefit a dramatically underserved segment of the childhood cancer landscape while at the same time offering translational benefits that extend to all childhood cancers—and beyond.
In these problems—which should by no means be minimized as they are literally a matter of life and death for our children—there is also tremendous opportunity. And it’s a far larger opportunity than I believe society today realizes. Sam’s Foundation wants to change both that perception and reality.
We believe that money spent on adult cancer research seldom trickles down to benefit children diagnosed with cancer because children’s cancers—their situation, their needs and their bodies—are different than adults. The same poison we administer to the 60-year old woman with breast cancer or the same radiation we use to blast the 70-year old man with prostate cancer do not have the same effects on the bodies of a 6-year old child. Yet, when we fund research to save children’s lives and develop safer, more effective treatments for children with cancer, the results can and do trickle up to benefit adults.
This is such a critical point that I want to repeat it again—when we fund childhood cancer research we are in fact also funding adult cancer research. Yet the opposite is not always true. The reasons that we do not fund childhood cancer at the same level as adult cancer research seem, on their surface, logical enough. Those 46 children diagnosed every school day amount to about 10,000 children per year. Far more adults contract cancer than do children—a point we must concede. But because of that, pharmaceutical companies have no economic incentive to spend billions on research for such a small addressable market.
Childhood cancer research is therefore a “pure public good”, meaning traditional capitalism does not offer the most efficient means of addressing the problem. That’s why it is up to us—the families, the friends, the community, and yes the government—to fund this critical need. What Sam’s Foundation wants people to know is that childhood cancer research is a wonderful investment with a payoff far beyond the fundamental desire of protecting our precious children. It is also an investment in the rest of society—your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your best friend and your neighbor. We all benefit from finding safer, more effective treatments for cancer—and children are at the vanguard of that effort.
So our mission—Sam’s legacy—is to help people see the opportunity in front of us that comes from the devastation of losing far too many precious lives far before their time should have come. This is an opportunity to turn proverbial lemons into lemonade. It is not a coincidence that Sam’s Foundation derives a significant amount of its funding from lemonade stands around the community. Those lemonade stands are symbolic of our desire to turn something bitter into something sweet, to turn devastation into something meaningful and worthy of the loss.
I believe that through increased awareness of the problem of childhood cancer—far too many children who die and far too many children who live suffering lifelong consequences—we will eventually come to realize that the solution—increased awareness and funding—will extend far beyond the walls of children’s hospitals.
Please consider becoming a part of the solution by supporting increased awareness and funding of our collective futures. Do it for kids like Sam. Do it for your family. Do it for all of us. But do it.