Last night, the three-night documentary series "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies" based on Siddartha Mukherjee's bestselling book premiered on PBS. In the first episode, the filmmakers traced the disease's history from a reference in a 15-foot, 4,000-year-old Egyptian medical parchment (under cures it reads: "There is none.") to the present, at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University, where two families are facing unimaginably difficult decisions about how to treat their children's leukemia.
In the first episode, Mukherjee described our quest for a cure as "...one of the most significant human challenges in our history." By the end of the episode, three things struck me that should be part of our conversations about curing cancer.
1. We've always had cancer.
2. Curing cancer involves a tremendous amount of money.
3. Finding cures depends on social engagement.
Today, people are bombarded with information, and it's easy to tune out so much that is competing for our attention. But getting our attention is crucial because to get to a cure, we all have to feel like stakeholders. Starting in the 1940 and 1950s, cancer advocates took a page out of advertisers' playbooks to engage the public. We can use technology: the very vehicle by which so many of us are overwhelmed with information that we ignore.
But we don't ignore everything (think last summer's ALS Ice Bucket challenge...), especially when those things hit close to home. Looking forward to tonight's episode. You can find your local PBS station here.