Sunday, November 23, 2008

Arlen Specter's "Never Give In" Chronicles the Good Fight

Cancer survivor and cancer battler Arlen Specter has written a book of optimism from the viewpoint of one who can see cancer as both a political issue and a personal struggle. He sees the growing number of people affected directly and indirectly by cancer and other serious diseases as forming a movement demanding that cures be found. The National Institute of Health, which has been strongly supported by Senator Specter, is working with research universities and pharmaceutical companies to find these cures.

Senator Specter recalls how President Nixon declared war on cancer. He frets how, if only we had devoted the resources towards health care research as we did towards war, we probably would have won the war on cancer by now.

The National Institute of Health, followed closely behind by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are among the best of all Federal agencies, according to Senator Specter. He is proud to have been a leader, along with allies such as Sen. Tom Harkin, in the fight to increase NIH funding on medical research from $3.6 billion in 1981 to $11.2 billion in 1994 and to $29.1 billion in 2006. Progress have emerged directly from these projects on combating heart disease, cancer, AIDS, stroke, and many other leading health problems. Millions of lives have been improved.

Arlen Specter writes of the shock of being told he has cancer. The mind has many questions, of one’s mortality, of chances, and how it will change one’s life. It is also traumatic having already been told once before he had cancer, underwent operations, and told in a misdiagnose he was soon to die. Having gone through these fears twice helped make him realize that we need to do what we can to reduce the number of people who have been subjected to these worries and pains of illnesses.

Cancer cells have developed their own survival means. They produce proteins that fool immune systems into not attacking the cancer cells. Research, Senator Specter believes, will someday find a solution so that cancer cells can be eradicated without otherwise damaging the body.

As a politician, Arlen Specter notes how the concerns regarding cancer and his political life have become intertwined. He notes that stress can be a cause of cancer, and that the stress of campaigning, especially when the race is so close, is very emotionally draining. He further notes that his support of stem cell research has caused some Pennsylvania political activists to openly demonstrate against him. Another connection the Senator noted between his cancer and politics was that, shortly after he announced he had cancer, Governor Rendell received six calls within one day from the announcement from people seeking to be appointed to Specter’s vacancy should the cancer prove fatal.

Several politicians have disagreed with Senator Specter on stem cell research. Specter believes an embryo does not become life until it is inside a woman’s womb. Others such as Senator Sam Brownback disagree with Specter’s position. The author notes that Senator Brownback asked him “when did your life begin”? Specter notes he replied, “well, Sam, I’m a lot more concerned about this point about when my life is going to end.” Specter notes that hundreds of thousands embryos are discarded that could have been used for research, and there are plenty of embryos available for use for fertilization. The Specter-Harkin Bill on stem cell technology became President George W. Bush’s first veto.

Arlen Specter wondered how to get through the worries about his health. He took, and passes along, advice from Senator John McClellan to how to handle personal crises, and this is “work, work, work, work. That will pull you through.” The author further recommends to people in similar situations to acknowledge the threat, to concentrate upon and improve one’s mental and psychological strengths, to keep as regular a work and exercise schedule as before as possible, to listen and question your physicians and conduct your own research on your problem, and to challenge experts when you have questions, and to keep yourself busy.

Arlen Specter jokes that he may be remembered for believing something most people did not believe, namely the single bullet theory in President Kennedy’s assassination, and for not believing someone who most people believed, namely Anita Hill. Arlen Specter, as of November 2005, became the Pennsylvanian serving the longest time in the U.S. Senate. Whether you have mostly agreed or disagreed with Arlen Specter, he has been one of the most skillful of Pennsylvania politicians and one of its greatest survivors, in multiple senses. This book shows he has handled his trials and it is strongly recommended to those who wish to learn more about fighting cancer and serious illnesses.


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