Most people don’t know that you’re considered a cancer survivor at the moment of diagnosis. It wasn’t always this way. Sixty years ago, a cancer diagnosis was a death sentence. And if you did survive, you were left to figure out the rest of your life on your own.
But some survivors demanded something different, something better.
From OffScrip Health, this is The Cancer Mavericks, a deep-dive narrative into the people who fought for better treatment, forced doctors to listen, and pushed America to see the human side of the disease.
Episodes of this series will publish monthly through the end of December 2021 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the National Cancer Act of 1971. For more information, visit https://cancermavericks.com.
Mary Lasker used to say that more money was spent on advertising campaigns for gum than was spent on cancer research. She’d seen the effects of that almost non-existent budget first hand: she watched people close to her die from cancer, including her advertising exec husband. She was outraged by the lack of money and research devoted to ending the disease. But with her own funds and influence, Mary Lasker rallied the public and lawmakers to take notice, ultimately leading to The National Cancer Act of 1971. This "War on Cancer" brought millions of dollars, but also harsh truths: there was no simple cure for cancer, and the remedies of modern science to control the disease took a devastating toll on patients. Rose Kushner was one of those patients. She questioned the treatments and surgeries that had become the status quo for medical experts. Her pushback helped start a massive change in the patient-doctor relationship as well as in cancer treatment. In Episode 1, we learn how Mary Lasker and Rose Kushner became two of the most important health policy advocates of the 20th century, putting cancer—and cancer patients—front and center. For more information about this series, visit https://CancerMavericks.com
The Alumni Association
By the 1980s, cancer was no longer a death sentence. But the question of what surviving actually meant was unanswered. Cancer survivors had to navigate issues around employment, relationships, and the emotional and physical side effects of treatment in a world that largely didn’t know what to do with them. (and they were still called “victims.”) In 1985, a young doctor named Fitzhugh Mullan wrote an essay called “Seasons of Survival” about his own experience with cancer. His piece helped popularize the term “cancer survivor” and resonated with a growing number of survivors, who were starting to form support groups around the country. Among them was Catherine Logan Carrillo, the founder of People Living Through Cancer in New Mexico, who asked Fitzhugh to help her convene an “alumni association” for cancer survivors. And they did, during one monumental weekend in Albuquerque. For more information about this series, visit www.CancerMavericks.com.
The March on Washington
Advocacy can take many forms in the cancer community — from advocating for yourself or a loved one to receive the best possible treatment to calling your Congressperson or testifying on Capitol Hill to demand increased access to care. This episode explores different ways cancer mavericks have elevated survivors’ needs and improved their lives, including the pioneering patient navigation model created by Dr. Harold Freeman at Harlem Hospital, the story of Ellen Stovall’s fearless and collaborative approach to policy, shaped around a shared agenda to represent the needs of all cancer survivors, and the landmark 1998 March on Washington called Coming Together To Conquer Cancer. For more information about this series, visit www.CancerMavericks.com.
I'm Alive? HELP!
In just over 20 years, the number of cancer survivors in the United States has doubled to 17 million survivors, each confronting their new (ab)normal lives. From chemo brain to PTSD, medical debt to workplace discrimination, this episode follows survivors along with their unique—and often difficult—paths post-treatment. In this episode, we hear from some of the godmothers of the cancer survivorship movement like Dr. Patricia Ganz and Barbara Hoffman and “everyday mavericks” who are forging ahead into life after cancer. For more information about this series, visit https://CancerMavericks.com
The Young Adult Cancer Movement
Young adult cancer patients face a unique set of problems, but not so long ago they were a largely invisible and underserved community. On this episode we talk to mavericks of a new generation who fought to give young adults like them a voice.
Cancer Mavericks Goes to Hollywood
For decades, the portrayal of cancer in movies and television was grim. If a character was diagnosed with cancer, it was a near certainty they'd be dead by the credits. But, like cancer treatment itself, Hollywood evolved, and many storylines about cancer became stories of survival.
In this episode, we ask the question, "Who influences us and why?" From musicians to television stars, film producers to televised cancer screenings, when celebrities lend their voices to raising awareness and fundraising, that kind of star power can move mountains. Join us as we hear from voices such as actor Patrick Dempsey, StandUp2Cancer Co-Founders Katie Couric, Pam Williams, the late Laura Ziskin. Also appearing in this episode: Steven Hoffman (Professor of Global Health Law and Political Science at York University in Toronto, Canada,) Dr. Larissa Nekhlyudov (Director of Internal Medicine for Cancer Survivors at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute,) Kami Kosenko (Professor of Communication at North Carolina State University,) and Milton Kent (Former reporter and sports columnist for The Baltimore Sun).
For more information about this series, visit https://CancerMavericks.com.
This is a wonderful historic overview of how cancer survivorship and the patient movement came into being. Having devoured THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIes, I am DELIGHTED to see Matthew tackle this important topic: the history of cancer survivorship.
Thank you, Matthew for taking this one on!
A Project Whose Time Has Come!
For anyone who has taken the journey with a loved one or lived through cancer herself, this project is the resource, the accompaniment you hoped to find along the way. How we talk about cancer matters. Knowing the stories of those who came before and exploring how their courageous discourse changed the narrative over time empowers those starting on that road today. A profound thanks to all responsible for this amazing project. It takes a village!
Great work from the offsscrip team!