Sunday, November 06, 2016

Rigged: The Politics of Cancer ... rare pediatric cancer clusters in Florida ... by Alan Farago

I can't tell you where Jessica Whelan lives or anything else about her daughter who is suffering from cancer, beyond her photo that has gone viral.  If you are not moved by Ms. Whelan's photo and her words, which could belong to anyone in the state of Florida, you have a heart of ice.

What I have to say about that photo is political -- and it has to do with how Florida votes on Tuesday.

My exposure to pediatric cancer didn't start out as political. It began when I was fifteen or sixteen, nearly half a century ago. A child only four years old leaned on me when he had pediatric leukemia and suffered greatly for a few more years. I still carry the mark where he leaned on me.

My last words to Nathan Cobb were about love. I couldn't do or say anything else for him. I couldn't assuage his suffering or his pain.

Imagine if your child had cancer. Now imagine knowing the state was withholding data of a cluster of rare pediatric cancers. You would be furious, no?

It is happening in Florida now. Click on this Fox News report out of Fort Myers. The transcript begins:
(WFTX) – Research that identifies child cancer clusters west of the Everglades and in Miami-Dade county is raising concerns among some parents in Southwest Florida and Southeast Florida. "We believe state (of Florida) has a duty, first, of all to inform people of this," says Simon Strong whose son, Oliver, died from Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
I wrote about the silence of the state over a year ago, and the silence continues. It continued through a toxic election cycle where substantive public health issues failed to even appear on campaign radars. The children don't vote, and they suffer worst of all.

It is not enough to go on corporate runs to stand in solidarity with cancer victims or to wear pink ribbons.

Carry this kernel of awareness to the ballot box, because Florida's Republican leadership ought to be held to account.

Gov. Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio --  and government agencies -- not only refuse to advocate tougher regulations against toxics, they won't even support the science to protect your health because the science could lead to more effective regulation against toxics. That conflicts with their ideology: protect polluters over people. In fact, the candidate they support for president, Donald Trump, wants to loosen all those regulations.

Here is what the state should do and hasn't: share its data on rare pediatric cancers with the nation's pre-eminent statistical association and allow independent experts to verify the state's claim there are no cancer clusters in Florida. Trust us, Florida's Republican leadership says.

In the meantime, vote AGAINST incumbents who sat on their hands, refusing to put light on rare pediatric cancer clusters in Florida.

Jessica Whelan, on Facebook:
This is the hardest photograph I have ever made, it is in fact my own four year old daughter. A few days ago she was given what is most likely only a few weeks to live after a battle against cancer that has been waged for over twelve months. This photograph was made in a moment that we as parents could offer her no comfort, her pushing us away whilst she rode out this searing pain in solitude. This sadly, for us as a family, is not a sight that we see rarely. This is now a familiar sight that we see regularly through each day and night, its frequency now more often. This is the true face of cancer, my baby girls blood vessels protruding from beneath her skin, a solitary tear running down her cheek, her body stiffened and her face contorted in pain.

I could try and use a thousand words to describe this image that we as parents are confronted with on a daily basis but these words would fall short of truly depicting the sight we see. With this photo I do not mean to offend or upset, I do mean however to educate and shock those that see it in it’s context. Perhaps by seeing this photo people not in our position will be made aware of the darkness that is childhood cancer, perhaps these same people may be able to do something about it so that in the future no child has to suffer this pain, so that no parent has to bear witness to their own flesh and blood deteriorating daily.

No comments: