By Daphne Stuart
The chart below lists celebrities (shown in red type) and non-celebrities (shown in blue type) who have all been diagnosed with cancer. (Assumed names and approximated ages are used to protect the identities of the non-famous.) Can you find a pattern in the chart?
THE ANSWER IS NO! There is no pattern because cancer is indiscriminate. Cancer affects all ages, races, genders and professions. Cancer does not methodically select who shall be stricken, who will survive or who may succumb to its terminal grip. Cancer does not care how much money a person has in the bank or the amount of fame one has or how many awards and metals somebody wins. Cancer does not think about the perfect prom dress or that favorite teddy bear. Cancer does not grant mercy to any of its victims—as even in death, cancer is hard, painful and suffers both the dying and those left behind to carry on. Celebrities suffer no more nor no less than the dental hygienist or paralegal. Non-celebrities vow to fight as defiantly against cancer as do celebrities.
Some folks suggest that having money helps. Newsflash: I have never seen cancer grab a $20 and head to the bank. I have never heard of cancer making a withdraw of $1,000 from an ATM. I know cancer takes lives from the rich and famous. I know cancer takes the lives of the poor and the poorest. Money may buy a pricey doctor or two or three. Money may fund trips around the globe to specialists. Not enough money may deny vital drugs. No money, no insurance may or may not affect ability to receive treatment. St. Jude is based on need and will not deny a child for the lack of financial prowess his/her parents may wield. Simple, at the end of the day, cancer does not recognize the dollar sign.
Celebrities do publicly support the fight against cancer. Lance Armstrong is the creator of LiveStrong, an advocacy website for cancer patients and family members. Since 1998, Katie Couric has passionately promoted the need for cancer screenings after losing her husband, Jay Monahan, to colon cancer. Christina Applegate faced with life and death took extraordinary measures to combat her breast cancer. Ted Kennedy fought as hard against his brain cancer as he did in Congress for his constituents in Massachusetts. Patrick Swayze and Farrah Fawcett—though overshadowed by Michael Jackson’s sudden and mysterious death—had both their valiant battles and tragic defeats displayed by the media for all prying eyes to see.
However, celebrities aren’t the only supporters in the fight against cancer. Other cancer survivors—including me—participate in raising awareness of the need for further research for a cure for cancer. We walk for those heroes we have lost and to celebrate our victories. We ask for and make donations to St. Judes, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the American Cancer Society and many other organizations and institutions sworn to fight cancer until cancer is an innocuous disease. Non-celebrities, like myself, may be sitting in the chemotherapy room consenting to have life-saving poison feed through our veins or hanging over a toilet heaving all of our souls into the bowl. But make no mistake about it—we’re fighting our cancer equally as hard as celebrities, though without the hovering of vulturistic paparazzi.
Ultimately, there is no difference in celebrities' efforts and non-celebrities' efforts when it comes to warring with and against cancer on all fronts, personally and publicly. Celebrities and non-celebrities are dueling for a common goal: NO MORE CANCER. AND THAT IS THE PATTERN THAT WE HOPE DEFEATS THE INDISCRIMINATE CANCER!