by Kerianne Slattery
On February 4th, World Cancer Day, Ogilvy Health embarked upon a year-long mission to raise cancer awareness through our #EverydayMatters campaign. Our team pledged to dedicate one day per month to raise awareness, educate, and take action. We resolved to further educate the public on the importance of screening, honor healthcare heroes and cancer survivors, encourage fundraising, and celebrate the special moments in life—because every day truly does matter.
Over the last few months, I have been thinking about ways I could get more involved with this important initiative. When I learned that August is National Wellness Month, it hit me. What if sharing my story of how cancer affected my life could encourage others to get that wellness check?
In November 2006, my mom lost her three-month battle with lung cancer at the age of 58. It came out of nowhere and she was gone in what felt like an instant. Maybe one day I will share her story, but not today. This story is about my dad and it’s an uplifting one, I promise.
What if sharing my story of how cancer affected my life could encourage others to get that wellness check?
On St. Patrick’s Day 2007 (usually a big holiday for my extremely Irish family), just about four months after my mom died, my dad dropped a bomb on us. He had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. I felt like my life was over. I was furious. How could this be happening to us? We were still reeling from my mom. My dad was only 58 and now he was going to die, too?
I did say this was an uplifting story, right? Stay with me, here’s where it gets inspiring.
Ever since my dad was a teenager, he had stomach issues—reflux, ulcers, you name it, he had it. In college, his fraternity brothers nicknamed him “dad” because he was always pounding milk, Rolaids and Tums. Fast forward to his thirties when he was diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, an acid reflux-induced inflammation of the esophageal lining, which can cause those who have to it be more prone to getting esophageal cancer. Finally, he knew what was wrong and he had a plan. Monitor, monitor, monitor and yes, medication. My dad was diligent about getting an endoscopy EVERY year, likely due to my mother’s nagging.
The 2007, an endoscopy picked up a cancerous tumor. Because he would get scoped yearly, the cancer was caught at an extremely early stage. While esophageal cancer doesn’t have the brightest prognosis, a 5-year survival rate of 20%,1 the doctors at Sloan Kettering identified him as less than stage I.
Every day was a gift—he knew it and we knew it.
Through treatment and constant medical monitoring my dad lived for an additional seven years, and man, did he live. Every day was a gift—he knew it and we knew it. He was there to walk my sister and I down the aisle at our weddings, and he was there to see us both become mothers. How pop-pop loved to spoil his grandchildren! He used each of those extra days he had—a direct result of early detection—wisely and with purpose, visiting friends and family and doing the things he wanted to do. While Hurricane Sandy crushed us in New Jersey, dad was watching a tsunami crash on the shore from a rooftop in Hawaii. He walked miles each day up and down Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach Island, relishing the sea air, chatting with neighbors as he passed. He golfed regularly and hosted many “Guys Weekends” with his life-long friends at our family’s beach house.
Moral of the story—don’t put off that wellness check. Go today. I know these are crazy times with COVID-19 concerns weighing heavily on us all, but now, more than ever, we must be diligent about our health. I recently read a staggering statistic that stopped me in my tracks:
More than 80,000 diagnoses of five common cancers may be missed or delayed by early June because of disruptions to healthcare caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
More than 80,000 diagnoses of five common cancers may be missed or delayed by early June because of disruptions to healthcare caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science looking at trends in the United States.2
Stop putting off that doctor’s appointment. Trust me, your family and friends will thank you.
Want to know more about our #everdaymatters initiative aimed at extending the mission of World Cancer Day all year long? Learn more here.
1. Cancer.Net™ website. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/esophageal-cancer/statistics.
2. Yekedüz E, Karcıoğlu AM, Utkan G, Ürün Y. A clinical dilemma amid COVID-19 pandemic: missed or encountered diagnosis of cancer? [published online June 21, 2020]. Future Oncol. doi:10.2217/fon-2020-0501.