Politics isn't necessarily my thing, but cancer is. So I tuned into the Livestrong Presidential Cancer Forum on Monday, August 27 to hear what the Democratic candidates had to say about the cancer question.
Why a forum on cancer? To make sure the candidates we have now and the two who ultimately fight for the presidency discuss the number one killer in this country, says Livestrong founder Lance Armstrong. Just like they'd talk about war, terror, and taxes, Armstrong says they should address the issue of cancer. And they did. Well, four of them did.
Senator Hillary Clinton, former Senator John Edwards, Governor Bill Richardson, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich all weighed in on this country's burden of cancer. The others? They didn't participate. Perhaps their absence speaks of their commitment to the cancer crusade. Maybe my leap to judgment is way off target. Regardless, the four who spoke to me today made me really think.
In November - one year prior to the 2008 presidential election - I will have survived breast cancer for three years. I figure that gives me special cause to comment on each candidate's plan for waging war on one deadly and treacherous disease. Here goes:
On Hillary Clinton
She had all sorts of answers for Lance Armstrong and moderator Chris Matthews, all of them pretty convincing. And herein lies my problem with politics: give me a polished, charismatic candidate, and I'm convinced.
Clinton told me the current administration has called a halt to the war on cancer. I know it has; I've done research on National Cancer Institute budget cuts, and they are real. Will she declare a national war on the disease, Clinton was asked. "Yes," she replied. "Yes."
Clinton wants to get back to setting big goals. She wants quality and affordable healthcare for everyone. If people can't get access, it doesn't matter, she says. And, she wants a public ban on smoking. On making real progress in this war-unlike the war in Iraq she so vehemently opposes-Clinton, holding her thumb and index finger just inches apart, said, "We are this close." Electronic medical records, speedy FDA drug approval, and more participation in clinical trials will help close the gap.
A war against science is being led by the President of the United States, said Clinton, who knows she has a lot of cleaning up to do when we finally say goodbye to the Bush-Cheney administration. She wants organization. I love organization.
A word about clinical trials: I am the happy recipient of the breast cancer wonder drug Herceptin-a drug so powerful and promising it may cut my risk of recurrence by 50 percent. Herceptin targeted my early-stage, aggressive cancer with a vengeance-but only because women before me valiantly volunteered their bodies to science. They took a chance so I could live. I'm in favor of more clinical trials and more participation in these studies. But I also think we should tread lightly in this area. Human life is precious. Let's be careful.