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Cancer — more than a fashion statement

The latest trend in fashion this season isn’t an article of clothing or a flashy accessory; it’s a simple action requested by the Lance Armstrong Foundation with two words: Wear yellow.

Since the creed went forward earlier this summer, millions have followed orders.

In May, the cycling superstar’s Foundation began selling yellow rubber wristbands, stamped with the mantra, “LIVESTRONG.” Perhaps it’s the significance of wearing the bands — 100 percent of the proceeds go toward the cancer-fighting foundation — which has made them such a hit. Or maybe it’s because they’re fashionable and cheap. They only cost $1 each. Whatever the reason, people in all circles have decided to wear yellow.

The Associated Press snagged a photograph of Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, a prostate cancer survivor, wearing the wristband. President George W. Bush reportedly owns one as well. Olympic gold medalists in Athens wear the wristbands. Construction workers in downtown Tampa wear them as comfortably as they do their hardhats. USF students support the foundation, too. Some walk around with a yellow band on each arm.

AP reported earlier this month that the Foundation has already sold 7 million wristbands and it hopes to sell nearly 2 million more. Not too bad, considering its initial goal was to raise $5 million.

In 1996, doctors gave then-25-year-old Lance Armstrong a 50 percent chance to survive testicular cancer. Despite such odds, he survived, inspiring cancer survivors even more by winning every Tour de France since 1999.

Chances are you know someone who died from cancer or lives to tell a story of survival. Cancer causes more deaths in the United States than any other illness, with the exception of heart diseases, according to the American Cancer Society. The Cancer Society estimates that 290,890 men and 272,810 women in the United States will die from cancer this year alone.

Several months ago doctors diagnosed my oldest brother, Tim, with colon cancer. Like any loving family, we rallied around him and camped out at the hospital while doctors performed surgery to remove the affected part of his colon. Weeks of chemotherapy and radiation session later: success. Cancer free. Or so we thought. That’s the thing about cancer. It’s a devilish disease that can strike the young and old, and though the best medical treatment in the world can send it running, cancer has a way of coming back when you least expect it. It happened to my 37-year-old brother.

A few months ago, he found out he had a cancerous spot on his bladder. Devastation spread, but my family stayed strong. We figured if we beat it once, we could do it again. But when doctors operated on my brother a second time last month, they decided taking out his bladder wasn’t worth it, because the cancer had spread too far. The cruel game of life escalated a few weeks later, when doctors discovered the cancer had also returned in his colon. “There is nothing they can do,” my mom told me.

But there’s plenty we, as a family, can still do, I told myself. We can take Lance Armstrong’s advice and “Live Strong.” Those two syllables serve as a source of encouragement for me. Every time I look down at my wrist and see those words, I’m filled with hope that a better day will come for my brother and all cancer patients.

To learn more about the Live Strong movement visit:

www.wearyellow.com

Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief. usfkevin@yahoo.com