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Commentary

Please don't punish me for National Banana Bread Day

Special To The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 01:27 AM

Because Congress had gone nuts with special days and commemoratives, Republicans established Rule 28 to stop these resolutions.

Sounds good. But the problem is, resolutions that could make a real difference in people's lives get barred along with the ones honoring someone's daddy.

Mine is part of the collateral damage.

In 2007, sarcoma nonprofits and doctors signed off on July as Sarcoma Awareness Month. When my health allowed, I begged and cried to get a resolution introduced into Congress. This June, I was thrilled when U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat who represents Tampa, introduced Resolution 722 to support the designation of July as Sarcoma Awareness Month.

Although the resolution will take little time or money, people tell me it's doomed, not because Republicans hate cancer patients but because they won't flout Rule 28.

Republicans won't tell me that on the record; they just pass me to another staff member who doesn't call back.

Where have all the mavericks gone?

Simple resolutions have been derided as time-wasters. Here's a time-saver: Both parties could take 15 minutes out of name-calling and mudslinging to pass Resolution 722.

In case you're not aware, sarcoma is one of the five main types of cancer, along with carcinoma, leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, and cancers of the brain and spinal cord. Sarcoma represents cancers of connective tissue, such as nerves, muscles, joints, fat, bones and blood vessels. Some researchers identify more than 50 subtypes; others claim 100-plus.

Some sarcomas don't fit neatly into any category — that's the case with Payton Martinez, whose cancer was found when she was 5½ months old. Surgery removed the tumors, but she remains on chemo. She is now 15 months, and her family prays for more months cancer-free.

Sarcoma represents 15 percent of the cancers diagnosed in children each year. Although the figure is only 1 percent for adults, experts believe sarcoma is underreported.

More than 14,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with sarcoma last year. Excluding bone sarcomas, almost half of those with soft-tissue sarcomas will die within five years. I've lived 10.

I was a journalist before I got leiomyosarcoma, a cancer of smooth muscles. I promise that, with Congressional recognition, volunteers could slip sarcoma into health calendars more easily, and people could use July as an excuse for more health education.

Awareness matters. Many sarcoma patients have never heard of anyone else with their cancer. Patients and doctors may not know all of the treatment options, or that nonprofits can help.

During the Republican National Convention, I hope delegates will remember the old adage: Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.


Suzie Siegel, a former Tampa Tribune editor, is now on the board of the nonprofit Sarcoma Alliance. She can be reached at suziesiegel@tampabay.rr.com.
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