For decades, the Pew Research Center has been measuring whether and how much Americans trust their government to do what is right. No surprise here, but that number has plummeted from 73% in 1958 to 18 percent last year.
No surprise either that for many years now Americans of all political persuasions, race, and gender also have lost faith in our other foundational institutions, from big business, religion, and the media, to law enforcement, sports, and academia – all buffeted by scandal of one sort or another. Lately, people found more hope rooting for a raccoon climbing to the top of a Minnesota skyscraper then in their fellow man.
No doubt about it – we’re in a trust crisis.
And this got me thinking. Perhaps our trust is misplaced, naively put in the hands of people (and institutions) with misguided intentions and self-serving agendas who lack any sense of altruism, public service, or empathy.
So here’s an idea: Maybe we should put more of our trust and faith in the people who really matter – like those who are working to find a cure for cancer and caring for those afflicted with this dreaded disease. I’m thinking specifically of the unsung researchers, scientists, technicians, nurses, doctors, and caregivers who don’t get the glory, but their selfless efforts have a huge impact on those suffering with all types of cancer.
Ok, I know what you might be thinking. The health care establishment has its trust skeletons too. In 1966, almost three in four Americans said they had “great confidence” in the U.S. medical profession. Today, that number stands at 34 percent.
But, I want to go beyond the health care industry and focus specifically on the cancer community.
The people I want to single out spend their days, efforts, tears, and sleepless nights doing remarkable things for other people they don’t even know.
They are brilliant, caring, and they are changing the face of cancer research in America and beyond. They don’t care about expanding profits or increased stock-option packages. They care about comforting the afflicted, helping cancer sufferers die with dignity, and finding a cure. These are the people we should be putting our trust in.
As the founder of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, I have spent a great deal of my life alongside these people.
I know them. I know their kindness. I know their hard-core work ethic.
They are people of integrity and high character who toil in prominent research hospitals, like the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the MD Anderson Cancer Center and the UC System, to amazing community hospitals like Baptist Memorial in Memphis, Memorial Hospital in Florida and beyond who are doing pioneering work in the treatment of lung cancer, immunotherapy, and precision medicine.
Some are creating cost-effective “liquid biopsy” blood tests that promises to identify lung cancer more quickly.That will lead to early diagnosis and potentially save lives. Others are developing Big Data solutions – which are critical to winning the war on cancer.
Then there are those leading the Addairo Lung Cancer Foundation’s studies on the Ros1der’s and the EGFR Resistors, two groups of patients with rare forms of lung cancer mutations who, with our funding and research help, initiated their own clincial research.
These are just a handful of hundreds of people I could name. And I’m sure you know of other remarkable individuals in the cancer community who deserve equal billing.
Because of them, cutting-edge treatments are prolonging and, in some cases, saving lives. Research has solved complex problems and provided creative solutions.
This is tangible evidence of the efforts of the dedicated people in our cancer community.
Still, much needs to be done. The CDC predicts that 2025 will see 19.3 million new cases of cancer a year — that’s not the number of people who will have cancer nine years from now: That’s the number of new cases alone.
Unfortunately, lung cancer again is leading the way by a wide margin -- 1.8 million people worldwide will be diagnosed with lung cancer by year’s end.It has become a global health pandemic and holds the dubious distinction of being the number-one cancer killer worldwide.
With such a formidable foe, we need to put our trust in those at the forefront of this fight. That’s not always easy.
Thirteen years ago, my physician sat me down and said I had stage 3B lung cancer and it was going to kill me in a matter of months if I didn’t begin treatment immediately. Other physicians told me to get my personal affairs in order because my life was over.
But then one doctor told me that an unconventional surgery was my only option, as the tumor on my upper left lobe, my aorta, and subclavian artery was too difficult to biopsy and was crushing my aorta. I put my trust and faith in him and today I’m a survivor.
So, I know something about trusting people. Polling clearly tells us that trust is falling.
But we need to look for the people who are helping on the sidelines – the unsung heroes in the cancer community who need our respect and support.
The ability to put our trust in another human being can not only bring relief to a wearied cancer patient, but it can be a matter of life or death.