It's World Cancer Day -- a moment in which we reach across borders and boundaries and unite in our shared quest to end a disease that claims the lives of nearly 8 million men, women and children every year. As somber a statistic as that is, there is cause for hope.
There is a movement to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking research that can get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives. Since its launch in 2008, the Entertainment Industry Foundation's Stand Up To Cancer has awarded nine grants to "dream team" research projects led by renowned doctors and scientists from various institutions, and 26 grants to young investigators pursuing unconventional approaches to the diseases. These recipients comprise more than 487 scientists from 87 institutions from around the world all working towards finding new therapies for many of the more than 200 types of cancer that exist. That's just one cancer initiative. There are many of us in this fight, and that's what World Cancer Day is all about. We cannot achieve our goal without the grassroots support of those whose lives have been touched by cancer in some way. As we all stand up on World Cancer Day, here are some easy ways to help show your support and accelerate change:
1. WE ALL HAVE A PLATFORM, USE IT WISELY.
We all have a circle of influence. Whether it's 10 followers or 1 million, use your voice for good. This is the most important day on the February calendar. With all due respect to Groundhogs, Presidents and Valentines, this message is far more urgent -- as one out of every three women and one in two men will be diagnosed at some point in their lifetimes. So find a creative way to use Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Instagram or the multitude of other options out there to be social around -- (Hello, HuffPost Bloggers!) World Cancer Day.
2. THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL.
We should all be as passionate as the teachers from Fieldstone Middle School in Thiells, New York, who believe that "through unity, teamwork, and the arts, we can help to find a cure for cancer." The teachers of Fieldstone put together an event engaging their students and the surrounding community called Dancing With The Teachers: An Event To Benefit Stand Up To Cancer. Ten teachers pair with ten professional dancers from NY DanceSport and compete in a one-night dance competition where all the proceeds go directly to Stand Up To Cancer. This is just one point of inspiration -- whether it's a bake sale, or run/walk or read-a-thon, we all can pitch in and support organizations local and national, while strengthening our communities.
3. EDUCATE YOURSELF & OTHERS.
Fact: A physically active, non-smoker, who eats a healthy, balanced diet can still get lung cancer...But you can reduce your cancer risk through smart lifestyle choices. Be vigilant about testing and mindful of the risk factors for certain cancers, like melanoma (avoid tanning beds and use sunscreen, for example.) Talk to your doctor about your health, and encourage your loved ones to not delay potentially life-saving screenings such as colonoscopies. Lastly, educate yourself and others on the progress of science. We are our own best advocates. The more we know, the less there is to fear.
4. CHANGE MINDS.
In many parts of the world, cancer is still stigmatized as a death sentence. Part of the mission of this year's World Cancer Day is to dispel the myths about cancer. It does not mark the end of who you are. It marks the beginning of a difficult battle, but a battle that can often be won. There is a passionate community waiting to embrace all those who need support. Let's connect those in need with others who understand their experience firsthand. Another myth that plagues the fight against cancer is the belief the fight is unwinnable. One look at the remarkable strides of science over the past decade should change the minds (and ignite the hearts) of any skeptics. If it doesn't, challenge them. (See point one about using platform.)
5. STAND UP FOR THOSE YOU LOVE.
Being diagnosed with cancer can be incredibly isolating for both patients and their families, and friends and other loved ones often struggle with how to be supportive. If it's someone you're close to, ask what you can do to help. Remember that any gesture -- calling or sending a card -- is so appreciated, even if there is no response.
For the millions we've lost to this dreadful disease and for those who are in the fight now, please stand up with us and create a tribute.
To mark World Cancer Day, SU2C would like to invite everyone to join a worldwide movement of people holding the "I Stand Up For" placard in many different languages. Here's how to get involved:
1. Print out a blank SU2C placard in your language of choice here.
2. Write down who you stand up for. (Your husband, sister, mom, your neighbor, someone you've never met.)
3. Take a picture of yourself with the sign.
4. Upload your photos to SU2C's Facebook page or post on Twitter or Instagram (using the hashtags #IStandUpFor #WorldCancerDay and @SU2C). SU2C will be curating these photos to share with the world.
Our beloved colleague Laura Ziskin, one of the Stand Up To Cancer co-founders, faced breast cancer with grit, grace and determination for seven years before it took her life -- she was our guiding light. A week before her death, Laura wrote this on the Huffington Post: "All cancer survivors can vividly recall the moment the disease invaded their lives."
We spend so much time focusing on the trivial, or the mundane.... A cancer diagnosis brings priorities into immediate focus. This World Cancer Day, let's remember what truly matters.