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Phelan: Despite advancements, cancer tough to deal with

I have now lost both of my grandfathers to cancer.

Bernard Phelan, my paternal grandfather, passed away in 2006 from esophageal cancer. Roy Siebert, my maternal grandfather, passed away from complications of bladder and lung cancer last week.

Both of my grandfathers were great men.

Grandpa Phelan was a Coast Guard veteran and Knight of Columbus who loved playing with my sister and me. My Grandpa Roy was a simple man, who loved camping trips, beer and brats, and never failed to send me cards for every single holiday.

Cancer, to me, is the scariest word in the English language.

It means years of pain. It means years of treatments that slowly become ineffective. It means nurses and social workers speaking in pure medical jargon. It means an excruciatingly long and painful way to die.

While I know that both of my grandfathers lived full and wonderful lives and are in a better place now, I still hate the disease that brought them to the end.

Fortunately, modern medicine has made huge leaps in cancer research. The huge success of breast cancer awareness campaigns has helped breast cancer survival rates jump to higher levels. Unfortunately, not all cancers have such successful campaigns. When did you last see a ribbon for colon cancer, or a parade for esophageal cancer awareness?

The American Cancer Society is always accepting donations to help with research and patient comfort.

There are several other organizations – including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which focuses on childhood diseases – that need donations of time or money. Volunteering at a local hospital, cancer center or hospice center would be another great way to help.

I love my grandpas, and I hate cancer. And I hope that, someday, no one ever has to go through the pain cancer causes to such wonderful people. 

• Courtney Phelan is a senior at Geneva High School. She is an outgoing and energetic young writer who likes to swim, read and participate in general teenage activities. She can be contacted at

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