Saturday, September 14, 2013

HONY, Cancer and the Ivory Coast


I follow the HONY page on Facebook, which is fantastic.   A man walks the streets of NYC and takes photos of average people (and admittedly, in NYC, there is no shortage of ‘characters’) and asks them some questions.  He posts the brief interview, or a caption, and the picture. 
I enjoy it, because I love NYC, having spent much time there while my son Brent sought treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, but also because I believe that there is something very powerful in what Brandon does.  He finds terribly interesting, funny and touching stories out of the most unassuming people.  And I believe that he challenges people to look at those around them in a new light.   Everyone has a story, if we only stop to consider what it might be.

I have never seriously commented before, generally reading others responses and trying on the various perspectives, both of those featured in the photos, as well as that of the commenters.  Today, with the photo of a man who left his violent homeland on the Ivory Coast, seeking a better life here, I wrote the following:

Ann Ramer: I think that we do not understand what political stability offers us.  Political stability allows us the luxury of griping about our government, rather than fleeing it.  We are blessed here.

Ryan Pulito: Political stability? You mean when one group has a monopoly on the use of lethal force?

Ann Ramer:  I mean when we have orderly elections that result in the peaceful exchange of that "monopoly on the use of lethal force" In other countries, this is not consistently accomplished. And there are enumerable blessings that come with this fact within our country. I acknowledge that many things are not perfect. But, without this basic foundation, so much else becomes impossible, things we take for granted, enough to even complain about the imperfections.

 
I did not want to get on a soap box, long posting on someone else’s site, but I thought much more about this today and thought that I would share.  I have my own blog after all.

While I disagree with Ryan Pulito, I really do not want to get pulled into a pissing match with him.  The political contentiousness that we have in our country,  I also consider that to be a blessing, not experienced in many other countries.  While some despairingly say that we have never been so ‘divided’ in the US, and conversations certainly can become heated, they are combative conversations, not actual combat.  Talk to someone from Somalia, or Syria or many other places in the world, and they can explain the difference.
I have been thinking a lot today about those blessings that we are afforded.  One, interestingly enough, is Pediatric Cancer Research, which we strongly feel is grossly underfunded.  We are blessed with both the opportunity to complain about it, as well as the opportunity to do something about it, precisely because of the political stability we have in this country. 

How much money do you think is invested in cancer research in war-torn African countries?  How many research facilities exist there?  I imagine that there are not many, because building elementary schools and hospitals is a big enough challenge.  Survival, in the most immediate of terms, is the highest priority.  It has to be. 
And because of this, everything else falls away to a very distant second. Investment in such sophisticated things as genetics labs or cancer research facilities, ones that might easily be taken, or destroyed, seems very risky.  Investment in science, quite frankly, should be a low priority if you are more likely to die in violent political reprisals.  Someone wise once told me, "Battle the shark closest to the boat."  Cancer is clearly not their shark.
Our stability, and the long general experience that we have with peace within our borders (recognizing, and in no way diminishing, the occasional episodes of violence, such as 9/11), permits us to have investment in cancer research, facilities adequate for the task, and scientists and doctors educated enough to tackle these tough problems. We assume peace, because we have no memory of anything else.  We proceed and invest accordingly.    

It all starts with the foundation of political stability, a blessing that I do not take for granted.
With an absurdly rare genetic predisposition to all forms of cancer (Li-Fraumeni), and two children with cancer (and 3 different types between them), I maintain that we are lucky.  Lucky to live here.  Lucky to live now.  And lucky to have the opportunity to try to help researchers advance their understanding of cancer and of genetics. 

We are very blessed to have no bigger fish to fry, or sharks to battle, as others in the world do.  We do not worry about feeding our children, or about violence likely visiting our home. 
We do worry about cancer visiting our home. 

But we have the opportunity to do something about it, which, as I recognize, is its own blessing.

2 comments:

  1. oh Ann I came here from the HONY sitr and you have just made me even feel grateful for living in my own country (Dominican Republic). It's true, we are taking for granted a lot of things. Wish you and your kids all the best!

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  2. Thank you Inly! We Ramers are fortunate to have a bit of medical quiet right now. I am praying that it continues. Best to you and yours in the Dominican Republic!-Ann

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