President Carter inspires Moffitt cancer patients

- Hearing former president Jimmy Carter talk so frankly about cancer ("I just thought I had a few weeks left"), did wonders for 75-year-old Garland McHenry of Valrico, who is battling lymphoma at Moffitt Cancer Center.

 

"This guy is 90-years-old and he is saying, 'I am going to beat it,'" said McHenry. "That has got to be an inspiration."

 

McHenry also watched the way Carter fielded questions, and was thankful for his relatively humorous demeanor during the 40-minute press conference.

 

"I hope the reaction is that people who are afraid to talk about cancer come out and talk about it, and listen to other people who have gone through it and take their advice," said McHenry.

 

Moffitt researcher Dr. Jeffrey Weber says melanoma has sometimes taken a backseat when it comes to funding.

 

"A lot of the funding goes to breast cancer, which might have five or six foundations supporting research," explained Weber. "(It is the) same thing for prostate or colon (cancer), melanoma has one or two organizations."

 

Especially in Florida, Dr. Weber says melanoma should be top-of-mind.

 

The number of cases has gone up every year for three decades.

 

A high-profile patient can help raise awareness.

 

"It will lead to a modest uptick in sun awareness, which in our country, is modest," added Weber.

 

McHenry says the awareness Carter brings to research, is as important as what the former president now means to patients.

 

"It can be cured, it will be cured," said McHenry. "I have hair now, so I know I am cured."

 

Dr. Weber has not examined Carter, but he does say that with the drugs and treatment, Carter's time is not nearly up.

 

McHenry tells me his own prognosis is good.

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