The Times West Virginian


June 8, 2014

COLUMN: Survival stories part of battle against cancer

I got an unsigned letter the other day.

I don’t typically respond to those kinds of letters. First, there’s no way really to address a response unless it’s an “open letter” format. Secondly, there’s a certain legitimacy that comes when you put your name at the bottom of a letter, even if it isn’t for publication. If you feel strongly about something, you’ll put your name on it.

But this letter made me sad.

It was someone asking us to stop running cancer survivor profiles in our paper. The author of the unsigned letter said their family had been destroyed by cancer, and just seeing the stories we ran in last week’s paper or knowing that they were there was devastating.

I’m not really big on drawing conclusions without having facts to back it up, but I assume that the author loved someone, and more importantly lost someone, to cancer. Their loved one couldn’t be featured as one of our survivors, whom we profile in the week leading up to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, because they didn’t survive.

Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It affects men, women, children, rich, poor, all races, all religions. It affects “good” people, the ones who give everything they have to help their fellow man, the ones who would give their last dollar to a worthy cause or clean out their own cupboards to feed the hungry.

There’s no rhyme or reason to the abnormal growth of cells — a two-pack-a-day smoker can be spared while the man who worked in a factory to feed his family and stayed tobacco free his whole life could die of lung cancer.

We make choices in our lives that may be the wrong ones — smoking, tanning, not eating enough of the right foods, using or being near certain chemicals. And sometimes just being born predisposes us to be susceptible to certain types of cancer.

Cancer sucks. I hate to be so blunt, but who could disagree with me?

I watched my own father battle through lung cancer and, he could be put in that “survivor” category. But I also saw my children’s grandfather battle colon cancer for years, succumbing to melanoma 14 years after the initial diagnosis, breaking their hearts in half. There was no difference in the level of care between them, no difference in love or support. One beat it, one died.

No rhyme. No reason. No compassion.

The biggest chance we have at battling cancer successfully is early detection. That can come from regular visits to a doctor, routine blood work, screenings for cervical and breast cancer, prostate exams and colonoscopies, just to name a few.

The stories of survival we share are part of the early detection process. A survivor talks about the symptoms that led them to a doctor or the routine screening that alerted them of the problem. If our readers see themselves in these stories and are encouraged to get screened or to check out symptoms after reading these stories, it was worth every printed word.

To the author of the unsigned letter, I’m sorry you lost a loved one to cancer. I hope that one day, there’s a shot or a pill someone can take to stop the abnormal growth of cells or to get rid of tumors all together. Until then, we have to stay vigilant and keep battling cancer as individuals and as a community.

Misty Poe is the managing editor of the Times West Virginian and can be reached by email at, by phone at 304-367-2523 or on Twitter @MistyPoeTWV.

Text Only
  • Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely

    The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
    It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
    It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life

    Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
    And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.

    July 20, 2014

  • COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?

    Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
    I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.

    July 20, 2014

  • Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions

    This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
    The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    July 18, 2014

  • Soup Opera in need of your support again this time of year

    It’s happening again.
    It usually always happens about this time each year. Sometimes it’s a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
    But Soup Opera executive director Shelia Tennant knows it will come — usually in July. And she’s never that surprised about it.

    July 17, 2014

  • County honors men who gave all in helping their community

    The next time you’re driving in the Rivesville area, you might notice new signs on two of the area’s bridges.
    Those signs, which bear the names of Alex Angelino and Denzil O. Lockard, were unveiled Saturday in honor of the men whose names they display, two men who died while serving their communities.
    The bridge on U.S. 19 over Paw Paw Creek was named to honor Lockard, while the bridge on U.S. 19 over Pharaoh Run Creek was named to honor Angelino. Lockard, a former Rivesville police chief, died in 1958 at the age of 48 while directing traffic. Angelino, a Rivesville firefighter, died at the age of 43 of a heart attack while fighting a fire in 1966.

    July 16, 2014

  • State must learn to keep costs down and perform more efficiently on less

    The West Virginia state government began its budget year last Tuesday with a small surplus of $40 million — less than 1 percent of its annual tax revenues — thanks only to dipping into its savings.
    Let’s not do that again.

    July 15, 2014

  • Long-range vision with transportation has been made to be thing of proud past

    Last week’s closure of Fairmont’s Fourth Street Bridge is a symbol of a problem that must be fixed.
    The United States should be proud of the vision its leaders once displayed to address the country’s transportation needs.
    Back in 1954, for example, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced his goal of an interstate highway system — something that transformed the country.

    July 13, 2014

  • COLUMN: Who would leave animal in sweltering car?

    I was standing and debating between two brands of a product in a big box store when I heard a call over the intercom:
    “Will the owner of a green Cavalier with a dog inside please report to the lawn and garden center.”
    I shook my head. I hate seeing dogs in cars waiting while their owners shop. About five minutes later, there was another announcement over the intercom.

    July 13, 2014

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