11/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Remembering Patrick Swayze and a Campaign to End Cancer

Note: I was about to publish a blog (below) on the potential impact of donating $5 to Stand Up To Cancer's new "March of Dimes-like" campaign when I got the heartbreaking news that Patrick Swayze had died. A year ago, when we did the Stand Up To Cancer televised event, Patrick opened the show. For all the star power that night -- the stunning musical collaborations, the participation of the presidential candidates and the profiles of breakthrough scientists, Patrick stole the show. He was the living embodiment of what it meant to bravely "stand up to cancer" and he was greeted with a standing ovation because of it. In the year that followed, Patrick continued fighting, not just for his own life, but on behalf of the more than 35,000 people who die from pancreatic cancer every year, and the 1,500 people who die from cancer every day. He spent a good part of the last year of his life as an advocate in the fight against cancer -- he penned a brilliant opinion piece in the Washington Post, and the determination he showed in his own battle no doubt provided inspiration to others in the fight. Last year Patrick defiantly posed the questions, "Will you stand with me? Will you stand up to cancer?" His words that day are ringing in my ears now, reminding me both of the bravery he demonstrated in facing cancer and the importance of finding a cure. It is up to all of us to stand up to this disease in honor of Patrick and everyone struggling with it.

My Blog: In 1916, the first great polio epidemic broke out in America. Twenty-two years later, a prominent entertainer (the great Eddie Cantor) went on the radio and asked everyone to donate 10¢ to help end polio, and thus, the March of Dimes was born. And then, in 1955, a vaccine brought about the end of a disease that terrified a nation. A lot of dimes helped make that happen.

Many things have changed over the past eighty years, but some things remain the same. We still have diseases that terrify us. As evidenced by the recent health care debate, we still wrestle with how to get important programs and research funded. And science is still an arduous process of trial and error. Nonetheless, we still have that feisty spirit that is determined to innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible in science and technology. We have the ability to make collaboration between doctors and scientists and institutions easier than ever. And while in the 30's and 40's, those passionate mothers and daughters and sons and uncles had to knock on every door in the neighborhood to raise a dime at a time, we can engage thousands by activating our own personal social networks and tapping into our microblogging skills.

In 1938, when the March of Dimes was formed, there was a sense that a cure for polio was possible. All that was needed was funding, dedication to the cause and time. Cancer, in that it is actually over 200 different diseases, is far more complex than polio. However, in the cancer community today, there is a prevailing consensus that a cure is possible and, god willing, relatively imminent.

All of us at Stand Up To Cancer are borrowing a page from the March of Dimes. We want anyone and everyone to donate just $5 to fund groundbreaking research and innovative dream team projects. The principle is the same: little donations make big differences.

The good news is instead of walking up and down the neighborhood with a tin can, we're asking you to reach your friends, your family, and your network by placing this widget featuring Meryl Streep on your Facebook page, your website or wherever you can. And please donate. Five bucks can make a world of difference. We don't know whose dime it was that ended polio, but we do know that happened because someone thought beyond "what good will ten cents (or five dollars) do?" The answer is a lot.

Donate and share the widget here.

Learn about the difference your five dollars will make.