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August 8, 2019

Twenty five years ago, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, Alyson.  She was perfect.  The right number of fingers and toes, bright blue eyes, and a very rosy disposition.  My pregnancy had been high risk and she came early.  While her due date was in September, she first tried to make an arrival in May on Mother’s Day.  Thanks to outstanding medical care, we were able to hold onto this pregnancy on the heels of two heartbreaking miscarriages.  We were absolutely overjoyed to welcome her and we knew she was our miracle, made possible thanks to a gifted innovator in antenatal care.

At the time of her birth we imagined nurturing times spent with her grandfathers, Yogi and Jim.  But cancer took them both away before Aly ever had a chance to really know either.  And it seemed to come out of nowhere.

Fast forward 25 years from the day my daughter was born, and there is much encouraging news about cancer.   According to the American Cancer Society, the death rate from cancer in the US has declined steadily over the past 25 years.  As of 2016, the cancer death rate for men and women combined had fallen 27% from its peak in 1991.  This decline translates to about 1.5% per year and more than 2.6 million deaths avoided between 1991 and 2016.  This is wonderful progress, made possible due to advancements in ways to prevent, diagnose, treat, and cure the disease.  This progress is possible thanks to research.

Our work is far from finished.  A total of 1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 deaths from cancer are expected to occur in the US in 2019.  This represents 4,800 new cancer diagnosis each day.  During the most recent decade of available data (2006 – 2015), the rate of new cancer diagnoses decreased by about 2% per year in men and stayed about the same in women. The cancer death rate (2007 – 2016) declined by 1.4% per year in women and 1.8% per year in men.

So, as I said at the beginning of this message, today is my daughter’s birthday.  Today, 4,800 people in the US will be diagnosed with cancer.  Today is the day to care about cancer.  Now is the time to care about cancer.

Yogi was a leader in the field of substance abuse treatment.  He was a PhD innovator who operated one of the first methadone clinics in the U.S.  He was in the prime of his life when cancer took him.  After raising 4 strong daughters, (who he always encouraged to follow their dreams) Jim, along with his wife Beth, shared his home and his beautiful, kind heart with more than 50 foster children over 20 years, including one lucky boy who became his son.  He was also my father.  Both Yogi and Jim died from a cancer that is entirely preventable today.

Happy birthday, Aly!  I know we still have challenges to face but progress is being made.  Today I will make a donation to cancer research in your honor.  And I promise to keep at this work until cancer is eradicated from the face of the earth.

To learn more or to make a donation go to


Susan Sheehan
President and COO
Huntsman Cancer Foundation