A year or two ago I might have said that was curiously coincidental but I've witnessed way too much in my travels and I know otherwise now.
Last night I was fortunate enough to listen to Dr. Steve Withrow's talk about his lifelong work in comparative oncology. The title of his presentation tells all, "Some Science. Some Stories. Some True." It was both enlightening and invigorating, and I hope everyone of you has the opportunity to hear him speak some day.
One of the most interesting points he made was that despite breakthroughs in understanding and technological developments, "The dumbest cancer cell is smarter than all of us." My father, a nephrologist, used to talk to me at length when I was young about the amazing complexity of the human body and the intricacies of its individual yet interconnected systems. A few months back in a blog about Murphy I described cancer as nature's perfect enemy. It uses that complexity against its victims.
Dr. Withrow also talked about his efforts in convincing the National Institute of Health of the importance of studying cancer in companion pets. In his words, "NIH never questioned the science but the relevance and the ability to extrapolate it into humans." As a consequence, comparative oncology or translational studies are not even a rounding error in the billions of dollars spent on cancer research in the U.S. every year.
Public perception is still another problem and one I can speak about personally. While on our cross country walk I was invited to a number of human cancer rallies and at every one, I was introduced as the 'Dog Cancer Guy' or on a few occasions the 'Dog Cancer Boy' which made me sound a little like a circus act. Don't get me wrong I was grateful for every opportunity we had on the road to share our story but most of my time at those events was spent on, "Yes, dogs get breast cancer, too, and by working together we may find a common link or a key."
It's important this month, Pet Cancer Awareness Month, to keep in mind exactly what we're up against; the greatest epidemic facing companion pets, limited government funding for research, and even public perception.
That's why participating in the 2 Million Dog March this November 7th is so imperative. We've got to send a message to the media that this isn't just an "Aww, puppies" story and to the general public that the only way to eradicate cancer in both pets and people is through partnership.
We're not going to get 2 million dogs to walk in the 12 cities this year or any where close to that but it's the start. You know when Malcolm's cancer spread to his lungs he had hard days and when he struggled, I whispered to him, "We don't give up, we don't give in until the end, my friend." That's where 'puppy up' came from...
I miss you Malcolm. Happy birthday & puppy up!
To participate in a puppy up walk near you, go to http://2milliondogs.org/walks