PROGNOSIS UNKNOWN: Be aware of causes you donate to


Evie Lichtenwalter is a junior news journalism and telecommunications major. She writes ‘Prognosis Unknown’ for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. Write to Evie at

I probably won’t live to see 30.

Statistically, the cards are not in my favor.

Malignant mesothelioma is an incredibly rare, terminal cancer that carries a five to 10 percent five-year survival rate. I’ve known this since my diagnosis in 2013.

Statistics for my age group don’t even exist, according to the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, because less than 16 people my age are diagnosed annually. That’s not a large enough number to do valuable research on, especially with such limited funds.

More than 2,000 people are diagnosed with a form of mesothelioma each year, and a total of 2,574 Americans died of mesothelioma in 2010.

So, you know, that’s pretty awful.

But, with such a high incidence of death, the government is totally looking into those statistics and doing research, right?

Turns out only .1 percent of the National Cancer Institute's budget actually went to mesothelioma research from 2004-2007.

That equates to about $6 million.

To put that in perspective, breast cancer research received more than $625 million dollars from the NCI in 2011. Their budget was more than 10,000 percent larger than that for mesothelioma.

That number is not an error; it’s a sick joke.

There are also several chemotherapy treatment options for breast cancer, and only one FDA-approved chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma. In my case, it didn’t really work.

I’m not saying every single case of breast cancer is treatable by any means, and every individual case of cancer is its own animal. There are just more available resources, support and options for breast cancer patients.

Breast cancer received more funding than lung and prostate cancer combined, both of which have higher death rates.

We live in a culture that values social activism or "slacktivism" over actually making a difference.

If we buy a pink t-shirt adorned with boxing gloves and the phrase “Fight Like a Girl” thrown across the front, we feel like we’re making a difference and consider ourselves advocates for cancer research.

In reality, we’re consumers buying into a trend that makes more money for the people creating those products than for actual cancer research.

This is not a rant against breast cancer or the government, this is a public service announcement directly from me to you: be better.

If you want to make a difference, actually do a little bit of research. Donate your money to a specific cause or organization. Find out what programs don’t receive enough federal funding, and make sure your dollars go somewhere that will make a difference. Stop blindly handing over your money and sporting a pink colored whatever to make yourself feel better. You’re not making a difference; you’re just lining the pockets of CEOs.

Tomorrow is National Mesothelioma Awareness Day, so do me a favor, OK?

I don’t care if you donate. I really don’t.

But at the very least, Google the word “mesothelioma” and see what you can find.

Just spend five minutes making yourself aware of the disease, so maybe the next time you feel charitable, you’ll remember that there are more causes out there than the one attached to the color pink. 


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