Cancer Survival and Attitude with Hamilton Jordan (cont.)

wabe_grb_webmd: I enjoyed your book. I'd like to know some more about Camp Sunshine. Did it help you through treatment to be a part of this organization?

Hamilton Jordan: In 1980, my wife Dorothy, started Camp Sunshine, which was one of the first camps anywhere for children with cancer. It's a nonprofit camp. Ironically, this was several years before I had my first cancer. We started with 38 kids, and today we have a year-round program that serves about 500 children with cancer. The high point of our year is the summer camp for these kids. It changes their lives.

Hamilton Jordan: It's very powerful for a child who is newly diagnosed with cancer to go to Camp Sunshine to have a friend or counselor who has the same cancer they had, who has been cured or had a limb amputated, or are bald, it has a powerful effect on the attitudes of these children.

wabe_grb_webmd: Can you talk about some of the complementary therapies you mentioned earlier. I have never met anyone who has used them.

Hamilton Jordan: I think anything that you can do that makes you feel like you are contributing to your own good health is a positive thing. Whether it's exercise, diet, green tea, or visualization. The only caveat is it makes no sense to do anything that undermines your chemo or radiation or surgery. You have to use common sense.

Hamilton Jordan: I think there were two effects. The actual effect, and then there's the peace of mind, or satisfaction of knowing you're doing something. It's like the placebo effect in medicine. The placebo effect is well documented. Patients oftentimes feel better even though they've been given a dummy pill because they think they've been given the pill and should feel better. It's the power of attitude for the impact of the disease. The will to live is a powerful, powerful thing.

Moderator: I imagine that your position as Chief-of Staff during the Carter Administration opened avenues of treatment not available to everyone. Can your experience be equated to the average cancer patient?

Hamilton Jordan: That's not true. I went to the National Cancer Institute and participated in a trial that was available to anybody anywhere. In fact, most clinical trials in this country are not filled. With my 2nd and 3rd cancers, I got the treatments that anyone else could get that had the perseverance to find the treatments, and good insurance. I've always had good health insurance. It was not pulling strings or getting special treatment, it was doing what almost anyone with good insurance can do. Certainly a person being at National Cancer Institute, anyone can do that.

Moderator: You have been working to increase funding for basic cancer research. How is that going?

Hamilton Jordan: It's not going well. We have an epidemic of cancer in this country. Forty percent of the people alive in the U.S. will have cancer in their lifetime. As a nation, we're doing damn little about it. We spend about 25 billion dollars on the CIA, and about 14 billion dollars on the space program, 9 billion dollars to have safe air travel, and spend less than 3 billion a year on a disease that will strike 40% of us. It makes no sense. Scientists will tell you that the best young researchers are not going into cancer research, because there's not enough funding. This is a huge challenge for our country, to get serious about cancer. One out of every 2 men in our country will have cancer in their lifetime, and one of every three women. That percentage will grow to 50% by the year 2010.

Moderator: Do you think this issue going to be addressed in the upcoming presidential election?

Hamilton Jordan: I hope so. Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore both lost sisters to cancer. So they've been personally touched by this disease. I hope they'll both get serious about funding more aggressive cancer research.

Hamilton Jordan: There are so many promising treatments and therapies, our country's investment in cancer research has been modest, but paid a rich dividend for cure. The cure rate is almost 50%.

Hamilton Jordan: But we need to do much, much more.

Hamilton Jordan: We've got groups that are going to. I met with Gore a couple of years ago about this, but we've got groups working on this in a national level.

Moderator: Does the word cancer get any easier to hear now that you've survived multiple cancers?

Hamilton Jordan: It's just been a part of my life. I don't run from it. For people who have lived through cancer and lives through it, it's a blessing because it gives your life a sense of purpose and fulfillment that you might otherwise not have. I'm not sure if cancer hits only good people, or cancer turns people into good people.

Hamilton Jordan: There's a lot we don't know about cancer. There's a school of thought that excessive amounts of fat in the diet has something that contributes to both prostate and breast cancers. I don't know if that is a fact, but some people believe that. Scientists are really starting to look at nutritional values.

Moderator: Well, our time is about up. Mr. Jordan, do you have any words of advice for those struggling with a cancer diagnosis?