The Tufts Daily
Every community is affected by cancer, including our own here at Tufts. More than 1.6 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with the disease this year. But the progress is real. The rate of cancer death in the U.S. has dropped a remarkable 20 percent since the early 1990s, preventing over a million cancer deaths in that short time. The American Cancer Society has contributed to the broad effort that has led to this drop, and its why were proud to be part of Relay for Life at Tufts University.
Over the course of 12 hours – 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Tufts students come together as a supportive campus community for those with a connection to cancer. One out of five Tufts students participates in Relay, and more than 60 of us, many of whom have a personal cancer experience, work throughout the year to plan the event. Through Relay we have found a way to come together to fight back against cancer. Relay is the only organization on campus that provides a community to support cancer survivors and caregivers.
Relay serves two vital purposes. First, it is an event that celebrates survivors, honors those weve lost, and allows participants to pledge to continue the fight against cancer. Second, Tufts Relay For Life raises much-needed funds for the American Cancer Society (ACS). Since 2008, the Tufts community has raised $455,000 for ACS and last year we were the fifth-largest college Relay in New England competing against much larger schools. This overwhelming support from Tufts students reflects our collective dedication to this issue.
This year, ACS is celebrating 100 years of fighting cancer, and is asking us to join them to finish the fight. As of April 7, our community has raised over $84,000 with one week left to reach our goal of $110,000. 72 cents of every dollar we raise here on campus goes directly to research, prevention, detection, treatment, and patient support.
The ACS is the largest non-profit, non-governmental funder of cancer research, having invested $3.8 billion since 1946 into research of all cancer types. ACS currently is funding 137 grants totaling more than $57 million at 30 hospitals and institutions throughout New England, including labs at Tufts Medical Center.
ACS, through its advocacy affiliate, ACS Cancer Action Network, also works with lawmakers to make cancer issues a national priority. One recent successful effort that is especially important to the college community is Michelles Law, which ensures that seriously ill or injured college students can take a leave of absence from school and still be covered by their insurance nationwide. The law is named for Michelle Morse, a college student whose insurance company refused to cover her colon cancer treatment unless she remained a full-time student, forcing her to take a full course load while receiving chemotherapy.
The funds raised by our Relay also provide transportation services to people who might not otherwise get to cancer treatment (35,000 rides last year in New England alone), and free lodging for people who have to travel from great distances to take advantage of the world-class cancer treatment facilities offered here in Massachusetts. The Boston Hope Lodge has provided patients and their caregivers over 54,000 nights of free lodging, saving them close to $10 million. Our campus support of Relay has helped make all this and more possible.
As co-chairs and as people connected to the fight against cancer, Relay For Life has been an integral part of our four years at Tufts. We have seen the organization and community grow, not only in fundraising success, but also in its dedication and passion for this cause. Relay For Life is, at its core, a unifying event and the only one of its kind on our campus. We are looking forward to the event and we sincerely hope that you will join us in our fight against cancer.
Amanda Borow is a senior majoring in peace and justice studies. She can be reached at [email protected] Katie Galasso is a senior majoring in child development. She can be reached at [email protected] Ariana Riccio is a senior majoring in biology. She can be reached at [email protected]
Relay For Life of Tufts University
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Friday, April 2, 2021
161 College Ave
Relay For Life of Tufts University
ATTN: Relay For Life of Tufts University
3 Speen St
Framingham, MA 01701
The Tufts Daily
Tufts Relay for Life (RFL) has raised over $6,000 for the American Cancer Society (ACS) in preparation for its main relay event in April following the group’s November kick-off event.
The fundraising effort will culminate with the spring RFL event, which will take place from April 8 to 9 at the Gantcher Center from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. At the event, people will gather to honor, remember and support cancer survivors and their caregivers as well as people battling cancer or who have died from cancer, according to the Tufts RFL website.
“We fundraise and do publicity all year for this [April] event,” senior Emily Casey, the group’s event chair, said. “We do educational events and entertainment events to raise awareness and get people interested.”
According to the RFL national website, RFL began in 1985 when cancer researcher Dr. Gordy Klatt decided to fundraise for his research. He ran around a track for 24 hours, allowing people to pledge a certain amount of money to walk or run with him, ultimately raising around $27,000. This set in motion Relay for Life, which would become a national ACS fundraising event with the same premise of Klatt’s initial run, though it has been adopted by teams and participants in cities, towns and schools across the country. According to the ACS website, Relay for Life is the largest non-governmental funder of cancer research.
According to Casey, the RFL kick-off event took place on Nov. 4 and aimed to publicize the group’s spring relay. The two-and-a-half-hour kick-off showcased four performance groups, as well as speakers from the organization who are cancer survivors, Casey said. The event also included free food, donations and discounted registration.
Tufts Relay for Life has 35 teams and 151 participants as of press time, according to the Tufts RFL fundraising website. According to Casey, participants this year have raised three hundred more dollars than they did around mid-November last year.
Other fundraising events held by RFL since the kick-off include its first profit-sharing fundraising event on Nov. 19 at Joshua Tree Bar and Grill in Davis Square, where the profit that the sports bar makes throughout day will be donated to Tufts RFL. According to Casey, RFL partnered with Joshua Tree for the event in order to gauge community support and Tufts’ students support for the cause.
The group also hosted a “Zumba for Life” event, which was a free Zumba class for all pre-registered participants, on Nov. 17 in the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center. The event promoted healthy living and breathing to raise awareness about lung cancer, according to Casey.
Casey explained that this year’s RFL centers on the theme “Olympics,” which will guide the direction of the RFL events in the spring to include culture houses and culture societies on campus, expanding the cause’s audience that traditionally includes primarily athletic teams and members of Greek life.
“Cancer affects everyone all across the world, and we also want to celebrate more of what culture societies do, as well as the students,” she said. “We hope to have over 1,000 participants and raise of 100,000 dollars this year for ACS.”
The event is catered toward Tufts student groups and faculty members, since the surrounding Medford and Somerville areas have their own individual RFL events, according to Casey. However, there are non-Tufts groups that do participate in the Tufts RFL event, she said.
“We even have a team come from Malden Middle School [from Malden, Mass.] who participates every year,” Casey said.
The Tufts chapter of RFL had around 800 participants last year, but this year they are looking to expand that number to 1,000.
“[Our goal is] to also have one-fifth of Tufts (1,000 students) signed up for Relay in the Spring as well,” Tyler Lueck, the co-event chair of Tufts RFL, told the Daily in an email.
Lueck, a senior, added that the team hopes to fundraise over $100,000 this year.
“The last time we broke 100k was our freshman year, and we’d love to do it again,” he said.
In the past five years, Tufts RFL has raised over half a million dollars in total, and every year, Tufts places in the top five in terms of amount of money raised at New England schools, according to Casey. Tufts’ high ranking allows it to be in the same field as larger schools such as Northeastern University, she said.
“We’re one of the top five relays in New England,” Casey said. “That’s a really huge accomplishment, and we’re very proud of it.”
Casey and Lueck both said that they hope Tufts RFL will gain more awareness on campus this year.
“[In the long run, we] would love to see Tufts RFL continue to exist as a large group on campus that makes a big impact with fundraising and awareness every year,” Lueck said.
This Cancer Survivor Won’t Relay for Life
Every Spring, Tufts plays host to one of the most well-attended philanthropic activities many of us will see in our entire undergraduate career. Relay for Life, an event put on by the American Cancer Society (ACS), draws hundreds of participants. As a cancer survivor, this should be heartwarming. However, as many impartial charity watchdog sources have reported, the ACS cannot be confidently seen to represent its noble goal of advocating for a world without cancer. Rather than advancing the cause of cancer research, ACS operates in a way that is at best ineffective and at worst manipulative. While I criticize the actions and philosophy of the ACS, it must be understood that these criticisms do not extend to the students organizing Tufts Relay for Life. These individuals have devoted large quantities of time to support what is, in their view, an effective way to fund cancer research and provide communal support for individuals whose lives have been affected by the disease. It is all the more unfortunate that their good intentions have been hijacked by a profit-driven corporation whose efficacy and discretion are highly dubious.
Let’s be clear: the American Cancer Society is a definitely-for-profit nonprofit organization. While ACS functions on a volunteer-based model, the CEO still received a $2.2 million salary in 2011. In this same year, the organization reported $1.3 million in net assets despite widespread cuts to their programs. Because of this, both the American Institute of Philanthropy and Charity Watch have given the ACS a “C” rating for efficiency while the Chronicle of Philanthropy has stated that the organization is “more interested in accumulating wealth than saving lives.”
ACS takes a severely troubling stance on cancer prevention. Dr Samuel Epstein of the Cancer Prevention Coalition alleges that the organization “is fixated on damage control…diagnosis and treatment…with indifference or even hostility to cancer prevention.” ACS adopts a hard stance requiring “unequivocal human evidence on carcinogenicity” and has actively ignored the scientific consensus on the issue. Since the early 90s, ACS has opposed the notion (which has been proven in federal studies) that certain pesticide additives lead to the development of cancer. ACS is exclusively concerned with the prevention of lung cancer, but their advocacy takes the form of promoting abstinence from smoking. ACS CMO Otis Brawley has stated that lung cancer is the only cancer for which “there is a cause,” referring to smoking. Brawley asserts this despite the fact that non-smokers comprise about 15% of all lung cancer patients. Their remarks are made all the more confusing when they themselves report that if non-smokers with lung cancer had their own type distinction, this group would still be among America’s top ten fatal cancers. Yet, ACS continues to use its status as the most visible cancer nonprofit organization to spread falsehoods, which lead to the stigmatization of all lung cancer patients who are seen as deserving their disease. In 2011, the National Lung Screening Trial showed that tens of thousands of former smokers, who comprise about 50% of lung cancer diagnoses, could be cured with preventative screening. ACS continues to be silent about this.
ACS’ focus on treatment is also detrimental in that it is entirely centered on cancer in adults. In 2010, the ACS reported that only 1% of their expenses are allocated to childhood cancer (that is, each and every form of cancer which might occur in a child). This is a problem because adult cancers do not evenly map onto their childhood correlates; many adult cancers do not exist in children. The standard treatment for childhood cancer is to use lower doses of adult treatments; this is not always effective, and survivors of childhood cancer face an increased risk of premature death. Cancer simply affects children differently than adults and has long-term effects not present in adult forms. Research is desperately needed here, and to neglect this concern under the faulty rationale that adult-centric research encompasses childhood cancer is simply to be in denial of scientific reality. ACS is happy to use the images and stories of children with cancer while championing itself as the “Official Sponsor of Birthdays,” despite allocating almost nothing on this front. If donors wanted to, they could notrequest that their donations go towards childhood cancer research either. This highlights a serious problem with how ACS treats cancer: all funds go into one large pot rather than being focused towards any one of the over 200 cancers we know about. But cancer is not a monolith.
ACS and Relay for Life’s choice of language is also damaging. Sexual wordplay almost always accompanies cancer awareness campaigns. If you want to show you support curing breast cancer, you have your choice of “I <3 Boobies,” “Save The Ta-Tas,” and even “Save Second Base” wristbands. At best, the slogans sound like they were drafted by a third-grader clumsily expecting a laugh for mentioning something dirty; at worst, the slogans are severely disconnected with those whom breast cancer actually affects. It’s not clear why we’d want to sexualize a cancer whose median age of diagnosis is around 61. Though ACS is not responsible for these thoughtless slogans, they aren’t immune to the tendency to sexualize cancer. At Tufts, past Relay slogans include: “We go all night so you don’t have to beat it alone” and “Are you DTF [Down To Fight]?” where DTF commonly stands for “Down To Fuck.” While this sexual branding might elicit a minor giggle from a sexually awkward freshman, it just insults those of us who have lived through super-sexy cancer.
The nonsexual language we use to describe cancer and its victims also carries significant consequences. When we talk about “beating” and “fighting” cancer, we are ascribing a level of control to cancer patients that simply isn’t there. In 1978, Susan Sontag wrote in Illness as Metaphor that while we portray cancer as an evil to be fought,
…it is also the cancer patient who is made culpable. Widely believed psychological theories of disease assign to the luckless ill the ultimate responsibility both for falling ill and for getting well. And conventions of treating cancer as no mere disease but a demonic enemy make cancer not just a lethal disease but a shameful one.
Given ACS’ failure to adhere to even minimal principles for philanthropic outreach, it is distressing that so many of my peers believe they are doing good by participating in Relay. If you’re looking to effectively aid cancer patients and survivors, The Jimmy Fund and the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge are just a few local philanthropic activities with a history of transparency and tact. We don’t need to settle for Relay for Life.
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.Tufts Relay For Life Kickoff
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