Dec 22

Please Ensure the Government Funds Stem Cell Research and the NIH

I am sitting next to my sister in the ICU at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center I hate this place. My sister was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago, struggled with host vs. graft disease, and recently relapsed. I hate cancer. Every day I leave here, I feel like I’ve just seen war, to the point where it makes it difficult to sleep or even enjoy life. My sister’s pained face and voice are etched into my memory and it’s hard to think that someone who took care of you growing up is in so much pain. If having a family member with cancer feels this bad, I have no clue how it must feel to actually experience it firsthand.

I have gotten over the part where I blame myself for not doing enough. Now I’m angry at our government. Is our government responsible for cancer? No. Could they be doing a lot more to fund research to prevent it or at least make the treatment seem somewhat humane? Absolutely. We’ve spent more money on the war in Iraq than in over 30 years of fighting cancer. And yet, I am more afraid of terrorism than before it started, and I’m still very much afraid of cancer. How could we let this happen?

To the politicians who falsely led us into this war, you should seriously be ashamed of yourself. From an opportunity cost standpoint, you have caused more suffering in the world than I can possibly imagine.

If you aren’t a politician who got us in this war, please write our current politicians and tell them to quit wasting the money we work so hard to get. If you think they didn’t waste our money, read Imperial Life in the Emerald City and then talk to me. Read this report which shows a 14% decrease in NIH funding since the start of the Iraq war. Or just look at someone in the ICU at M.D. Anderson or meet the families of the 1500 people a day who die of cancer each day in this country. I’m sure you’ll think otherwise.

  • A

    Your sister’s greatest asset is you. Your loving attention will help her to keep a positive outlook, which is one of the most important aspects of her struggle.

  • Julie Gomoll

    Our lack of funding for stem cell research is appalling. This administrations priorities have been a complete embarrassment.

    I’m optimistic, at least, that in just under a month we’ll have a President who values science and education, and who wants us out of the quagmire in the middle east.

    Julie Gomolls last blog post..Software Development: Integral To Our Launch

  • David Davenport

    Powerful and passionate thoughts. It’s hard to trust those when a family member is struggling with illness and even harder to trust that your government is going to do the right thing. Have faith in both – MD Anderson is the right place – the best in the world and like many believe, soon things with change with our government.

    Best wishes.

  • Martin

    I am very sorry about your sister Michelle, I can only imagine what you must be going through. Stem cell research is an important area of research… but they are a lot of myths about it, more specifically its funding. The US spends more than 3 times any other country in stem cell funding. California alone spends more than the EU average combined. One problem that does exist however is the lines of embryotic stem cells used, there isn’t federal funding for more recent ones. But even this is not as big a problem as it seems since the creation of a the consortium. The science is the limiting factor.

    Funding has decreased not because of the war, but because Bush has been diverting a lot of health funding to combat AIDS. He has certainly done more than any other president in the US (or country in the world for that matter) to combat AIDS. So much so that some scientist are complaining it is too much:

    We’ve all had to suffer in recent years in the scientific funding arena. It’s very unfortunate, but everything from NIH to the DOE did not have enough funding. And every year, all of us who depend on this funding, have to spend countless hours calling, writing and going to Washington to tell congress why fulfilling their obligations is the right thing to do. It is ridiculous.

    This is largely because of the current congress. For 4 years straight they refused to pass Bush’s budgets as is, and the major things they cut were science funding. Everything from nuclear science to medical research.

    So unfortunately Julie, I don’t hold out much hope… the congress will remain the same, and they were the ones making these budget cuts. Also, because of the economic situation, and with all the money they plan to spend, I fear things will become bleaker for science funding in this country in coming years.

  • Michelle


    I refuse to have sympathy for Bush. After seeing the whole Valerie Plame thing go down and hearing Richard Clark’s account about how Bush and his chronies wanted to go to war with Iraq before 9/11, it just makes me very angry.

    I have no doubt that this war will impede us from funding necessary research. I have no doubt that a Democrat Congress would have put more funding to science had we not been in this war. WE HAVE LOST NIH CANCER RESEARCHERS TO CHINA BECAUSE WE DON’T FUND AS MUCH AS THEY DO. That’s insane.

    I do have hope that Congress and our President will change their attitudes about science funding. Why? Because for once, I funded their campaigns and I will be the first to make sure they are ousted so fast it will make their heads spin if they don’t buckle down and spend our tax dollars where it matters.

    I appreciate Bush’s funding for AIDS (which, btw, was not as much as he promised initially), but the opportunity costs of the war have cost us all. The Iraqis don’t want us there. Our federal deficit is out of control. And for what? So my sister who’s paid taxes her whole life can lay in a hospital bed and not receive the care that she would have got had we spent money where it should have gone.

    Over $1 trillion dollars wasted. Bush is the worst President ever and the Democrats were so busy trying to make him look bad, they forgot to focus on what matters. Sigh.

  • Martin

    It’s not Bush we should have sympathy for. It’s the people who dedicate their life to this work, and the people to whom it benefits (for example, as you pointed out, your sister).

    I’m not surprised about the lost of cancer researchers. We’ve been losing nuclear and other scientist at alarming rates too… it’s becoming a very unfavorable environment for science research. I certainly hope my pessimism turns out to be unnecessary… the war certainly played some part. But considering the $450 Million of the bailout money earmarked to movie producers and a few billions to random special interest, it’s not like congress doesn’t have money for research… it’s just that researchers can’t give them millions in campaign contributions. It’s a sad testament to the state of the legislative system.

  • Yvonne Perry

    I have an aunt who has terminal lung cancer. She went through the horrors of chemo and radiation, lost her hair, and hoped that she would be in remission. Less than six months later, the cancer was back with a vengeance. She refuses to have more “treatment” and I don’t blame her one bit. I love her and support her decision. I really appreciate what you are doing for your sister and what you said about spending more money killing people in a war than we do on learning new ways to cure cancer.
    I invite you to post on my stem cell research blog if you would like.

    Yvonne Perrys last blog post..Why is Stem Cell Research so Controversial?

  • Arun Pal Singh

    I was going to launch a blog on stem cell research and came across this post.

    I understand your pain and frustration. I hope your sister is doing well.

    Stem cell is the most promising research humans could have ever taken. I am not going into the hazards and possible ethical conflicts here.

    The benefits are so immense that anybody with a common sense would not think twice on this.

    But things are different…