2020 was a total bust; ditto 2021. 2022 isn’t shaping up much better; 2023 might be worse. Could a promising potential cancer cure save the 2020s?
What goes up, must come down. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Karma; what goes around, comes around; three-fold, five-fold, or ten-fold. No good deed goes unpunished. To everything there is a time and a season under heaven, turn, turn, turn. There is nothing new under the sun.
Science, philosophers, and major religions don’t agree about much of anything; almost nothing, actually. Even within each of those realms, there is so much disagreement and dissension over nuances, empirical truths and existential threats, it would take an advanced computer algorithm and probably AI a decade to sort it all out.
Even then, AI might not be able to help. A program that cannot produce realistic cat videos has little hope of mapping the vagaries of human esoteric knowledge.
When science, faith, and philosophy do all arrive at the same universal truth together, it usually transcends any puny human constructs like language, culture and geography.
If for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction- as science, major religions and the great philosophers of history tell us there is- the world deserves an enormous, cosmic-level win to make up for the 2020s thus far.
Woe betide all those who optimistically made New Year’s resolutions in January of 2020. And again in 2021.
Deepest sympathies to anyone who uttered these fateful words at the hopeful start of a new decade: “2020 is going to be my year, I can feel it!”
For them at least, there is no future with the Psychic Hotline.
A global pandemic hit, which no one was the least bit prepared for. Many people lost loved ones to COVID19. Two-weeks to slow the spread became two-years to stop the spread; 2.5 years later, and neither goal is remotely in sight in spite of all the sacrifices we made.
Those sacrifices, it is becoming only too clear in retrospect, included some pretty steep price-tags in terms of inflation, a supply-line crisis, higher fuel prices and a possible recession looming over the horizon in 2023.
Of course, on the heels of COVID19, in the midst of a vice-like economic contraction, Vladimir Putin decided to invade the Ukraine. That conflict is ongoing, but most experts predict Russian forces will ultimately prevail. Even the most optimistic cheerleaders for Ukrainian independence fighters are admitting Ukraine might have to endure land concessions to end the conflict.
That conflict has made everything from inflation, to the supply-line crisis, to the price of fuel worse…and it isn’t even over yet. Far from it. In fact, Russian troops marching into Ukraine may be only the opening salvo for the 2020s.
The Chinese Communist Party has been eyeing Taiwan in askance for some time now. Recently-leaked audio from a top-secret military meeting in China- itself a rare and troubling sign- suggests Xi Jinping and the People’s Liberation Army have not been put off by Putin’s lack of resounding success in Ukraine.
When China invades Taiwan, the U.S. might find itself dependent both on a 10,000 mile petroleum-driven supply line it cannot afford to fuel and a country which has ceased its lop-sided trade relationship full stop.
Being cut-off from Chinese manufacturers would send even companies like Amazon into a tailspin from which it might never recover, to say nothing for small retailers in America.
If this happens, the inflation and higher fuel prices we are currently experiencing will seem like a tax holiday in comparison. A recession might be the least of it; soon economists might start using the word “depression”.
First, they will say, “there is no chance of a depression,” but we all know how quickly that can turn into “we missed the signs of this depression- sorry.”
Any economic downturns are going to negatively impact the U.S. crime rate, already on the rise to the tune of a 29% increase in homicides. Given this fact, it isn’t hard to imagine a future in which we spend the remainder of the 2020s recovering from wounds both pandemic and self-inflicted.
It’s enough to cause the stoutest heart to shudder.
What gives? Surely disaster can’t keep piling up upon disaster ad infinitum? At some point, as science, religion and philosophy assures us it must, things have to start turning around, don’t they?
Is there any good news to be found on the horizon? Any chance of recovering the 2020s?
We might not be entering into a second round of the “Roaring 20s” but the “Remission 20s” might not be totally out of the question.
What could save the 2020s?
Answer: A cure for cancer.
If scientists manage to cure cancer over the next 7 years, that breakthrough- rather than COVID19, economic pain, and aftermath of crime and global poverty- might come to define this age.
Tragically, over a million Americans have lost their lives to COVID19. Statistically, however, most of us don’t know a single person who died from COVID19.
On the other hand, almost everyone has lost a close friend or family member to cancer. COVID19 killed an infinitesimally small number of children; cancer kills thousands of kids every year. From five-year olds with Leukemia to retirees in their golden years battling long, painful and lingering illnesses like colon cancer; the big “C” is as scary a boogeyman as has perhaps has ever existed.
Cancer can strike anyone, at any age, at any time. The scientific and medical communities don’t have all the answers about cancer, either; far from it. What causes it, why it sometimes spontaneously goes into remission; why at other times it aggressively resists every treatment and therapy, why some people get it and some don’t.
Many of the best treatments currently available for cancer patients have become boogeymen in their own right, any single one enough to strike terror; radiation, chemotherapy, the excision of malignant tumors, the colostomy bag, the radical mastectomy.
No one is safe from cancer; it afflicts the rich and the poor, the famous and the unknown, the young and the old, Republican, Democrat, capitalist, socialist, working-class, white-collar, high school dropouts and PhDs.
Most American families could write a book on the heartbreak caused by cancer. Our homes and lives are filled with stories of relatives and friends beset by long, painful illnesses. Our family histories are dotted with tales of treatments that made our loved ones even sicker in their final months.
A cure for cancer isn’t something most of us even bother putting on our holiday wishlists anymore. It is up there with “World Peace”. Sure, it would be nice to have and we all want it, but most of us fear mankind might never actually achieve such a thing.
Humankind may be just as far as ever from World Peace, and perhaps farther than usual, but there might be hope yet for a cancer cure.
“A Cancer Trial’s Unexpected Result: Remission in Every Patient,” touted the New York Times on June 5, 2022.
June, 5, 2022, has a nice ring to it; that date would be as good as any for a future national holiday. “June, 5, 2022: The Day We Cured Cancer,” would make for a wonderful headline.
“It was a small trial,” the New York Times cautioned of the promising new study; “just 18 rectal cancer patients, every one of whom took the same drug.”
“But the results were astonishing,” continued writer Gina Kolata for the NYT. “The cancer vanished in every single patient, undetectable by physical exam, endoscopy, PET scans or M.R.I. scans.”
The results of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on June 5, 2022, have sent excited shock-waves through the medical and scientific communities.
“A total of 12 patients have completed treatment with dostarlimab and have undergone at least 6 months of follow-up,” the authors of the study reported. “All 12 patients (100%; 95% confidence interval, 74 to 100) had a clinical complete response, with no evidence of tumor on magnetic resonance imaging, 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose–positron-emission tomography, endoscopic evaluation, digital rectal examination, or biopsy.”
“At the time of this report, no patients had received chemoradiotherapy or undergone surgery, and no cases of progression or recurrence had been reported during follow-up (range, 6 to 25 months),” the authors continued. “No adverse events of grade 3 or higher have been reported.”
“There were a lot of happy tears,” translated Dr. Andrea Cercek, one of the co-authors of the paper and an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Cautiously optimistic words and phrases like, “remarkable,” and, “unprecedented,” and, “compelling,” are already floating around the scientific community, though experts are rigorously cautioning that much more study will be needed before society can break out the champagne to celebrate a cancer cure.
Still, it is a bit of hopeful news on a landscape otherwise dominated by a global pandemic, economic woes and the prospect of war- with perhaps worse to come in the form of economic devastation and what experts are warning is shaping up to be a global hunger crisis.
That there is a glimmer of a cancer cure is welcome news for anyone whose life has been touched by its devastation, which is well-nigh all of us. Experts and cancer patients alike will be watching the results of future, larger trials with great interest and, perhaps, more hope than they’ve had in years.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)