Marisa Acocella Marchetto is a person I admire deeply. She's a brilliant author, she draws beautifully, and she's a breast cancer survivor with a sense of humor and a huge heart.
I happened to be in the right place at the right time in August, and met Marisa on the patio of one of my fave joints in New York, Da Silvano. She was kind enough to autograph a copy of her new book, Cancer Vixen. If you have or know someone who has breast cancer (and lets face it, this is basically everyone), this book is a must for you. I read it and have shared it, though I want to keep my copy 'cause she signed it for me:).
We had a connection on that patio. When Marisa talked about her efforts to provide free mamograms via St. Vincent's Hospital in New York to women who can't afford it or whose insurance won't cover it, and how she wanted to take her program national, I did a smart thing for once, and offered to help.
And have I learned a lot!
More than 200,000 women are diagnosed with, and 40,000 die from breast cancer in the United States every year. Mammograms can detect a tumor up to two years before a breast exam would. If detected and treated early, 96% of women are cancer-free after five years.
What does this mean? Simple: 38,400 women in America die needlessly each year from breast cancer.
That's just messed up.
You have to believe that early detection = less-expensive treatment cost too - that just make sense. I'm going to invest some energy over the next few weeks to find data to back this up.
Now what does this mean? Simple: if every woman in America gets a free mammogram, we will not only save lives, but also save the insurance companies and the government money!
As a starting point, we need to raise awareness and make it possible for every woman in America (including the 13 million women over 40 that have never had one) get regular mammograms. Marisa and I came up with this tag line: No Breast Left Behind. Here's Marisa's blog entry, and here's the link to the American Cancer Society site where you can buy t-shirts!
But this is just the beginning.
Neither Marisa nor I view this as a philanthropic mission. That's just a stop-gap. What we really need is a national mission to eliminate or eradicate preventable diseases. Breast cancer the first; it's prostate cancer for men [ASIDE: our tag line for this one is: Keep Your Eye on the Ball and I have no doubt Marisa will come up with a suitably irreverent design! ;-)]; for both genders and people young and old, we MUST address diabetes, especially type-2 diabetes, which is totally preventable!
I intend to write more about this as we learn more, but believe that with the new administration about to move into the White House, the economic crisis, the ever-rising costs of healthcare, and the fact that most Americans will suffer one of these (and other preventable) diseases, the time is now for us to get started.
This is not about raising money. In fact, this idea has the unique characteristic of actually saving this country and our heathcare system billions of dollars. All it takes is an institutional willingness to listen, and a social culture of prevention.