Cancer Awareness: As the holidays approach remember the epidemic of our lives and take each day as a gift.
Cancer can strike anyone. Your favorite person in the world (or you yourself) could be suddenly gone. According to the American Cancer Society, 1,638,910 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer each year. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 7.6 million people worldwide die from cancer each year. The World Health Organization has projected that by 2030, the total global number of cancer deaths will increase by nearly 80%.
Until June 2012, those numbers would have been abstract to me. That month, my only brother, Joe Garassino, a handsome 28 year-old, got a diagnosis—Stage 4 cholangiocarcinoma. We were told it was terminal, and in between the chemotherapy, radiation and surgery he endured, we tried to pack a lot of joy and fun into the time we had. On January 20, a few weeks after his 29th birthday, Joe passed.
Cancer is the epidemic of our lives, and I believe we should all take that personally. I want to do something to address those terrible numbers. I want to make sure people with a cancer diagnosis get the very best treatment. And I believe that those of us who are affected by cancer indirectly can not only be a force for good but a support for one another.
In September 2012, I was elected to the Cancer Research Institute’s Young Philanthropist Council. That December, while Joe was in home hospice, I wrote a song called “Hush, Baby” in his honor. My friend the performing artist Olya, composed the music and recorded the song. It is available for purchase on iTunes. All net proceeds from each song purchased go directly to the Cancer Research Institute to help fund groundbreaking research to advance new cures for cancer.
Recently, I joined a newly formed council, The TargetCancer Friends And Family Advisory Council Charter, which helps spread awareness of rare cancers and the need for new research and treatments. I am also involved with the Joe Garassino Foundation, a non-profit started by my dad, Mike Garassino, to help local people affected by cancer.
Last May, I launched this website, Joe’s Sister, an open group to support siblings and friends who have experienced loss. I miss my brother every day, but I’m motivated to reduce the suffering cancer causes. I’m happy to connect with others whose lives have been changed by this disease.