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Musings on digital media, urbanization and politics from Seattle, Wash.

One in three Americans get cancer – one in THREE

September 1, 2020

Cancer is bullshit.

I say that a lot.

When your life has been impacted by this insidious disease, the view shifts from sorrow and sadness to anger. Pure fury.

At least for me. Sometimes.

When I saw news that Chadwick Boseman passed, I figured it had to have been some kind incidental tragedy. Car accident, something like that. But no.

“Fucking dammit.”

That’s what I text my buddies when I found out about the cause. And honestly, I can’t say for certain I’ve had the chance to enjoy any of his work. At least not yet.

But despite any particular affinity for Boseman, just absolute vitriol at the news.

Forty-three years old. It’s bullshit.

And you know what’s insane? The number of people this impacts year after year after year after year. I feel like we don’t talk about the number because it’s that horrifying.

One in three Americans will receive some form of a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. One in three.

Actually, hold on. I started writing this post before getting the officially official numbers. One in three is rough-hand.

Here’s the breakdown from the American Cancer Society.

For men:

  • One in two, or 40.14 percent chance of contracting cancer
  • One in five, or 21.34 percent chance of dying from cancer

For women:

  • One in three, or a 38.70 percent chance of contracting cancer
  • One in five, or a 18.33 percent chance of dying from cancer

Just some real awful stuff when you’re part of a family of seven. Now six.

On the day Boseman passed, the usual morning carousel around the socials yielded this from my sister Molly:


I remember that day well. When you’re dealing with cancer, especially a real hellacious fight with it, you take any victory you can get. Anything.

And that was a big one.

As most people who know me know, we lost Mom in January.

The other day on the golf course with my brothers, in a text to the whole family, we received a picture from a wedding back in Wisconsin. It’s where we’re all from, and weddings on Mom’s side of the family were always something special.

In that text, on a table, a framed picture of my mom and her mom. Next to a little piece of similarly-framed word art.

“We know you would be here today if heaven wasn’t so far away.”

And you could tell when each one of the three of us saw it.

“It’s just awful, but—” I told one of my brothers. “Actually, no. No ‘but.’ It’s just awful.”

And that’s cancer. That’s where we are.

But if you want one more no-buts “That’s just awful,” here’s one every American should be acutely aware of.


We’re spending more on health care than any other country in the developed world. By a mile. And we’re getting less for it.

Not only that, but life expectancy in the United States is going down. And has for three years running. People will be quick to note “Well that’s because of this” or “In America, I bet it’s that” or whatever else.

That’s the point.

This—this isn’t working. This whole thing, measured as bluntly and straightforward as we possibly can, isn’t working.

And we have to be better.

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