By Rob Ficiur
This week the Ottawa Senators and other hockey fans paid tribute to Bryan Murray. On August 12, the former coach and general manager lost his three year battle with colon cancer. Murray ranks 15th in games coached with 1239 in his 17 years behind an NHL bench. That makes him 12th in wins with 620. He was General Manager of four NHL teams. As GM, he took the Florida Panthers to the Stanley Cup final in only their third year of operation. He will be remembered for his nine-year run as GM in Ottawa. In a very unstable job market of coaches and GM, Murray was employed in the NHL for 34 consecutive years.
Even after his diagnosis in 2014, he managed the team for another two seasons. The Ottawa arena held a special commemoration for him this week. In the sports world we hear of cancer deaths on a regular basis. This year the following have died of some form of cancer: Craig Sager (NBA reporter), Dave Semenko (former Edmonton Oiler), Darren Dalton (baseball).
I contrasted Bryan Murray’s public battle with cancer to a friend of mine who is fighting the battle. My friend fights the battle with the support of family and friends. He has told me the treatments make him too weak to get out of bed some days. He would rather be out working. Instead there are days he has no energy to leave the house. He fights on like so many others. He fights this battle hoping to beat the cancer into remission and go back to his normal routine. Most cancer battles are like my friend’s; not like Bryan Murray’s.
This year in Canada an estimated 206,200 will be diagnosed with cancer. Most of those who fight the battle be honored and celebrated in the media.
A CBC report painted a bit of a scary picture;
-Almost one in every two Canadians will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lives.
-Almost one in four of everyone in Canada will die from cancer.
-90% of the new cancer diagnosis that will be made in 2017 will be of people fifty years or older. Forty-five% of these will be people over 70 years of age.
The good news is that in the last 30 years the cancer death rate has gone down. The number of death has dropped by 30% in men and 17% in women.
In September, we will be witnesses to another Terry Fox run. Are we doing better or worse at fighting cancer? Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope has raised 650 million dollars. Sports leagues sponsor numerous cancer fundraisers and awareness campaigns. These include: Hockey fights cancer, Movember (the month of the year when we see the most interesting mustaches), Pink for Breast cancer – baseball, football and other sports dress in pink. MLB has used Mothers Day to promote breast cancer awareness.
On Facebook this week my friend posted something that stated: “Cancer is very invasive and destructive to our bodies, even after the treatment has ended its body continues to struggle with itself trying to reconstruct all the damage caused by the radiation. It’s a long process. Please, in honor of some of your relatives or acquaintances who died or are fighting cancer, or even had cancer but are cured; please copy and paste on your page. Everyone says, “if you need anything, don’t hesitate to call me, I’ll be there for you”. So I’ll make a bet, but I think some of my friends are gonna put this on their wall.”
Normally I am a bit of a cynic thinking how can posting something like this on facebook do any good? But my friend asked so I did it. I got more responses to my copy and paste cancer message than anything I have ever posted. Very few of my facebook contacts personally know my friend. But in real life they all knew because it they were relating it their friends and family who are or have fought cancer.
Sixty years ago polio was the plague that spread across Canada. The following describes the fear polio caused in our world. “Those born before 1955 remember having a great fear of this horrible disease which crippled thousands of once active, healthy children. This disease had no cure and no identified causes, which made it all the more terrifying. People did everything that they had done in the past to prevent the spread of disease, such as quarantining areas, but these tactics never seemed to work. (www.plosin.com)” In 1952 Dr. Jonas Salt discovered the cure for polio. This vaccine has made the disease almost unknown to anyone born in the last thirty years. I know that cancer is a big name for many diseases; but research is making slow steady progress, we just want it to be quicker.
Before we wish for the old days when cancer was not such a problem; a look at life expectancy would be helpful. In 1921 (96 years ago) the average life expectancy was 59 for men and 61 for women. In 2014 the numbers rose to the life expectancy rate was 80 for men and 84 women. There are numerous reports and studies with slightly different numbers, but the pattern is the same, our life expectancy is getting longer.
Let’s hope that 10 or 20 years from now cancer will sound as foreign to young people as polio does to us today.