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Hannah Sanford

Why Can’t They Just Fix It?

One of my earliest memories is lying in bed at night and hearing my Mom and Dad sit in the kitchen discussing my grandfather’s illness.  I just remember that terrible word. Cancer.

I had no idea what it was, but it kept my Pa in the hospital and made my Mom very sad.  Then the call came early one morning that made my Mom crumble.  The cancer had won.  I was 5 and didn’t really understand what was happening, but I knew cancer was something bad.  The one thing I didn’t understand was why couldn’t the doctors just fix it?

As I got older, that question stayed with me and so did the effects of cancer on others I knew.  I watched as older aunts, uncles and cousins all battled this disease.  I never gave up on asking the “why” question, but it became more apparent as I got older.  People were trying to fix it, but it was not an easy task.

When my Dad’s best friend, Joe Maynard, was struck with bladder cancer, answering the question became more urgent for me. To me, Joe was an uncle, not just my Dad’s friend.  He ate healthy, ran every day and was never sick. How could this happen to him?  With the help of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Joe beat cancer. Then a few years later, it was back. Joe fought a brave fight, but once again, cancer won the battle.

I then sat and watched this demon take control of my friend Jen’s son. Chase was diagnosed with Burkitts Lymphoma 3 days after he turned 10. I watched Jen as she tried to explain things to Chase, while she didn’t understanding herself. For 8 long months, the doctors, nurses and staff at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt tried to do everything they could, but they couldn’t “just fix it.”  Chase fought the bravest of battles and made us all so proud to know him, yet cancer won again.

Then in the past year it seemed as though everything started snowballing. I felt like cancer was affecting so many friends and family I knew. That’s when my Mom called me and said “they think your Dad has prostate cancer.” I didn’t think I had heard her correctly.

After a year that had included heart and spinal surgery with my mom and a brain hemorrhage with my dad, could this really be happening?  My head was spinning and that question was just hanging there – why can’t they just fix it?

By now, I know that to “just fix it” takes a lot of research.  Research involves a lot of dedication and resources.  Thankfully, the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center has people who want to answer the big question. They have the dedication, but they need the resources.  It suddenly became clear.  If I wanted to help, I needed to find a way to give back and encourage others to do so as well.

As luck would have it, I ended up sitting next to someone at a dinner who told me about the VICC Ambassadors program.  It was 2 weeks after my Dad’s diagnosis. The Vanderbilt-Ingram doctors had given my Dad a plan, and now I had one too.  If we ever want to be able to tell people, “we can fix it,” then we have to keep doing research.

I am committed to supporting the research needed to get there, and I hope you will join me. Together, we can all help to answer the big question and know we made a difference to people who really need it.