For Immediate Release
January 25, 2023
CONTACT: Clem Boyd
The Cancer Community’s Greatest Need
February is National Cancer Prevention Month and February 4 is World Cancer Day
By Percy McCray
As we prepare for National Cancer Prevention Month and World Cancer Day, what is the state of cancer in the U.S. and the world? And what do these statistics mean for the cancer community and those who care for them?
There were 10 million cancer deaths in 2020, according to the World Health Organization. The American Cancer Society’s Global Cancer Facts & Figures 4th Edition reports there were 17 million new cases across the globe in 2018.
The National Cancer Institute reports there were just over 1.9 million cancer cases diagnosed in the United States alone in 2022.
These numbers tell me cancer is still on the increase. On the other hand, we see a growing story of survivorship.
The American Cancer Society reports that at the beginning of 2022, there was an estimated 18 million individuals with a history of cancer in the U.S., and there has been a steady decline in cancer death rates in the U.S. by 32% from 1991 to 2019, the year when the most recent data is available.
The number of cancer survivors is projected to increase by 24.4%, to 22.5 million, by 2032. Access to screening and treatment will keep this trend moving in the right direction.
These statistics speak to me. First and foremost, we have a growing number of people being diagnosed with cancer, and we have a growing number of people who are surviving cancer than at any time before.
When I put those statistics together, it shows me that no matter what, with more surviving and more being diagnosed, the cancer community will continually need to have effective cancer caregivers. These are people who visit, care for, and support cancer patients, which is primarily made up of family, friends, and the faith community.
In a number of cases, cancer in now being considered a chronic disease to be managed, like diabetes or high blood pressure. We need people who will consistently be available and offer effective support.
With that in mind, I’d like to add three aspects of support I learned from Abide radio show host, Bonnie Curry, who shared that caregivers need to bring three boxes as they engage with cancer patients.
People supporting cancer patients need an effective toolbox. They need to learn the right tools to pull from the box, especially for those who are surviving longer and those dealing with cancer on a chronic basis. From a spiritual perspective, these tools include prayer and readings from the Bible by those who understand the language and dynamics of cancer.
The tissue box is a metaphor for those walking alongside the cancer patient who will cry with them. Especially with cancer patients living longer and those with a chronic cancer diagnosis, there will be times they need to cry and weep. They may be worn out, tired of being poked and prodded, weary of examinations and assessments.
As patients return to see their oncologist and care team members, there can also be a level of anxiety over the possibility of the cancer proliferating and getting worse.
Caregivers need to be the “tissue box” supporting the patient. There can be a tendency from a person of faith to always try to encourage patients to be positive and hopeful. Being hopeful is important, but there may be days, weeks, or months where they just need to cry because they’re tired, frustrated, and angry. They may just need to emote and when we allow them to do that, we are providing crucial caregiver support.
The last box we need to offer cancer patients is a soapbox. This is akin to the tissue box, where we allow the patient to cry and weep.
Expressing emotion is a part of being human. The cancer patient is not always standing on top of a faith mountain, but there are days when it is difficult and challenging.
Sometimes the cancer caregiver may try to divert or suppress those conversations. The soapbox affords the cancer patient with the ability to express what they are thinking and feeling in the moment.
In the course of a day or a week or even a month, the cancer patient will need to express how they are feeling, and that may not be positive in the moment. Instead, it may come off negative as they work out what is going on inside, and express thoughts like, “Where is God right now?” “I don’t know if God is listening to my prayers,” or “I don’t know if God is close to me at this moment.” These are soapbox moments.
Cancer forces people to deal with negative dynamics such as body image changes, including things like hair loss, where they are uncomfortable with socializing. For men with prostate cancer, they may experience sexual dysfunction or incontinence. We should not expect people to step through that and not express how they are feeling in the moment.
As we approach National Cancer Prevention Month in February and World Cancer Day on February 4, cancer awareness month, recognizing that more and more people are being diagnosed, more and more are surviving, and more are facing cancer as a chronic disease to be managed, we must come to the table to support them with a toolbox, a tissue box, and a soapbox.
We need effective caregivers who will bring to the journey the necessary box at the necessary time for the cancer patient as they work through the moments, hours, days, and months, and continue to fight the good fight of faith.
The Rev. Percy McCray is Director of Faith-Based Outreach for Cancer Treatment Centers of America®, part of City of Hope®. Rev. McCray is also a prostate cancer survivor.
To schedule an interview with Rev. McCray, please contact Clem Boyd, Director of Public Relations at email@example.com or call or text at 724.930.4003.