You know the valley I’m talking about, and if you yourself haven’t actually wandered anywhere near it, surely you know someone who has – or is, at this very moment, treading the footpath of needles and drip I.V.’s and pills and scans and crazy-ass hope.
Whether or not you believe in the power of prayers, or science, or both – it’s also a good thing to be mindful of the politics that determine:
-which diseases get the most funding
-which drugs get dispensed
-who receives the best medical care
-which corporations are funding research for specific diseases, and why
Know someone with breast cancer? Start with Barbara Ehrenreich’s excellent treatise “Welcome to Cancerland.” Then, think twice before you decide where to send your financial contributions for the fight against breast cancer.
Last week, Dana Reeves died of lung cancer and I didn’t hear or read a single report that didn’t begin with the caveat that she WASN’T a smoker. How perverse is it that we associate smoking with premature lung cancer deaths to such an extent that we need to be jolted into non-judgemental sympathy for a non-smoker who dies from this disease, but the tobacco industry is still allowed to manufacture, market, lobby and sell their deadly and addicting products openly throughout the world?
Worse yet, the politics of medical research and treatment adversely affect women more than men, with lung cancer being just one example:
While no national studies have yet been done, many lung cancer specialists say they’re seeing a disturbing trend of more and more non-smoking women with the disease.
“Many of them have done an excellent job of taking care of themselves,” said Dr. Joan Schiller, who specializes in lung cancer in non-smoking younger women at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “They run. They eat right.”
Ten percent to 15 percent of lung cancer victims are non-smokers. Among that group, women are two to three times more likely than men to get the disease. Doctors don’t know why. Hormones, second-hand smoke, diet and air pollution all are believed to be factors.
Though lung cancer is deadlier to women than other types of cancer, breast cancer gets almost 10 times more research funding per death than lung cancer, Schiller said.
“These women are tragic victims of the fact that they have a disease that is associated with smoking,” Schiller added.
We will all walk barefoot through the valley at some point, but before we do, we should take a look over our shoulder to see what forces may be prematurely shoving us over the edge of that cliff.
Can it ever be too late to fight sexism, racism, corporate greed, and all the wars of class politics? My crazy-ass hope is that the answer is no.