Wednesday, April 04, 2001

Local cancer victim supports funding

Wyoming man at U.S. Capitol

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — It takes a push, sometimes, to get you to stand on the lawn outside the U.S. Capitol in a mellow yellow T-shirt pulled over your business clothes and a sense of pride in your heart.

        Herschel Chalk, 54, of Wyoming wanted others to know he survived prostate cancer and to take the steps necessary to do the same.

        “I never thought about doing anything like this,” he said. “You don't really think about it until it happens to you.”

        Cancer survivors and their advocates rallied Tuesday to urge Congress to spend more money on federal research and prevention programs at the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

        Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 1.2 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year and more than 500,000 die from the disease.

        President Bush has proposed a 13 percent increase in the $20 billion NIH budget for the next fiscal year and in the past has called for doubling the cancer institute budget to $5 billion by 2003.

        Advocates often splinter into interest groups for specific types of cancers — such as breast or colon cancer — and compete with one another and activists for other diseases for federal money. The rally Tuesday was an attempt by more than 40 interest groups to speak with one voice on the importance of research.

        “Unless the federal govern ment commits the resources to fight cancer, we'll still be here year after year,” said Carol Aldige, president of the Alexandria, Va.-based Cancer Research Foundation of America.

        Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., who survived breast cancer, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who survived melanoma, pledged to work with their colleagues to make cancer research a priority. A cancer diagnosis, Mr. Brownback said, gives “so many of us a feeling, at that point in time, that it's a death sentence.”

        Mr. Chalk, a limousine driver and airport worker, was diagnosed with prostate cancer nearly five years ago. After a successful surgery, he began volunteering with the American Cancer Society, talking with other men about his recovery.

        Many men, he said, are reluctant to get tested for prostate cancer because of fear or embarrassment.

        “What surprises me the most is the ignorance,” he said. “It's not so much the fear of cancer, it's the fear of the test.”


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