Feeling Fit – October 17, 2015

I went to a Catholic elementary school and I remember Sister Sylvester telling me that if I wanted to know the difference between right and wrong, all I need do is ask myself if I would do it or say it in front of my mother. Needless to say, she made an impression, and that advice kept me out of trouble for a long time. (It’s a wonder I ever had three children!)
As time has gone on I’ve come to see many things in this world that I identify as wrong or immoral. The marketing of deadly cigarettes to minors is just one example. I want to say something or propose a solution, but whatever I say, there will be opposition, especially if it involves people’s livelihood.

Change only happens when you win over hearts and you come to a tipping point. That’s not an easy thing to achieve. People resist change, human nature being what it is. It took gay rights advocates decades of advocacy to get where they are today.

I thought Pope Francis’s recent visit to the U.S. and his advocacy for the poor was inspiring, I only wish more people were like him, striving for humility and teaching by example. Unfortunately, a personage like the Pope is a rarity.

I’m a realist. I understand why our country’s founders worried about self-government. People can’t be trusted to just do what is right. It’s why we have a system of checks and balances and the separation of power in government.

In the field of medicine, profit should never be the motive in treating patients. That would be wrong. Yet, I know we would never make any progress in improving medicine if there were not some profit incentive in the healthcare system. I would not begrudge my oncologist a penny, provided that he or she was recommending a course of treatment that was necessary. I do, however, take exception to the inexplicably high prices of life-saving drugs.

The most egregious case recently was Turing Pharmaceutical’s purchase of the drug Daraprim, the only medication for treating toxoplasmosis, an infection that can cause birth defects. It’s a drug also used in combination with other drugs for HIV infections, cancer and malaria. Turing purchased the decades old drug and increased the price from $13.5 to $750 a tablet – a 5000 percent increase! Not surprisingly, it turns out that Turing’s CEO, Martin Shkreli, is a former hedge-fund manager. Greed like this makes me want to bring back tar and feathers. It’s just plainly wrong.
This month is breast cancer awareness month. It goes without saying that I am very sympathetic to women who have breast cancer or any cancer, for that matter. It seems to me, however, that corporate support of breast cancer awareness is over the top. Pink is everywhere in the month of October. You have to ask why the campaign so successful?

Breast cancer advocates should be congratulated for coming up with such a blockbuster idea to raise awareness. Enlisting corporate sponsors is both profitable and effective. For the corporate sponsor, being a supporter and putting a pink ribbon on something you’re selling helps sell the product. Corporations are not being altruistic when it comes to supporting breast cancer, they are acting in their own self-interest and marketing to a powerful consumer group – women.

I am getting ready for the SW Florida Lung Cancer 5K Run/Walk and Mile of Memories walk scheduled for Charlotte Sports Park on November 7th. I am hoping we are going to have a record-breaking crowd attending the event, but I expect to be disappointed.

For years I dreamed of filling the 5,000 seat stadium with lung cancer supporters. Every year I despair that we get a turnout of less than 1000 people. The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure at Coconut Point attracts nearly 10,000 runners and walkers and raises $1 million annually in funding.

Lung cancer kills roughly 35,000 Floridians every year. In Charlotte County alone it is estimated that we lost 460 people to lung cancer last year. Victims of lung cancer are fighting for their life; they are not available to serve on a fundraising committee or walk or run in a race. They are certainly not a consumer group that has much marketing merit for corporate sponsors.
I haven’t found a way light a fire under people. But I know the difference between right and wrong and I know that advocating for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death, is right, even if it is not popular.


Thomas E Cappiello is an eight year lung-cancer survivor and founder and president of The Lung Cancer Research Council, Inc., a non-profit charity dedicated to promoting lung cancer awareness, screening and early detection. Write to him at tcappiello@np.zypha.com or visit www.lungcancerresearchcouncil.org