Honoring two residents who seek the truth about cancer

December viagra online discount 16, 2010 ­ The Wellesley Townsman

On Dec. 7, the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project honored its founders, Wellesley residents Viola and Richard Morse, “for their diligence, philanthropy, and passion in raising awareness of the relationship between environmental issues and the incidence of cancer in our community,” as WCPP president Sara Frost Azzam put it. The ceremony was held at Wellesley College’s Slater House. Board member Theresa Keresztes said, “WCPP has grown into a resource for public health officials as well as residents interested in reducing environmental risks that may cause cancers to develop.”

What Sara Frost Azzam said:

The mission of the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project (WCPP) is to raise awareness of environmental toxins and the incidence of cancer by providing education and information with the goal of reducing health risk factors for the citizens of Wellesley and surrounding communities.

In 1997, within a six-week period of time, Viola and Richard Morse were diagnosed with different types of cancer. As we have now come to appreciate, cancer is not always the result of lifestyle or hereditary attributes, and there was no family history behind either of the Morses’ diagnoses. Following her recovery, Viola cofounded the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project in an effort to get the town to study the links between cancer and the environment, with a specific focus on what could be contributing factors in Wellesley itself or with the lifestyles practiced in an affluent community. Richard joined on to her campaign, and both of them were active members for over 11 years on the Board of Directors of what came to be known as the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project.

I became a member of the board of the WCPP shortly after its founding. I joined because both of my parents had cancer diagnoses as well. My father died of multiple myeloma and my mother is a breast cancer survivor. I was an adult by the time my parents were diagnosed, but the news never comes easy. As I came to know more about Richard and Viola’s story, I often thought about how difficult that must have been for them to deliver those diagnoses to their young children, not knowing what life had in store for them.

As I came to know Viola and Richard better, I realized that they are my own personal heroes. They are people who took their own challenge and turned it into a learning experience for their community. They have truly enriched the community in a way that has made a difference. Viola campaigned on our behalf, with the Commonwealth, to ensure that we had up-to-date cancer studies in our town, and headed this organization for many years. Richard always quietly supported her efforts, and led the campaign to make sure that we had safer (yet superior, in my opinion) playing fields for our town.

Together, they have been a steady guiding force in this community, ensuring that we continue the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project’s mission of educating the community about the possible environmental causes of cancer. I am privileged to know them, I am thrilled to have served on the board with them, I am happy to call them my friends, and I am honored to give them this award.

What Viola Morse said:

Richard and I were living the good life: a wonderful home, two great children in third and fifth grades, we were both very much involved in our community, and had nothing to worry about.

It was the late summer of 1996. Our first shock came when my (then) 19-year-old niece had a recurrence of a lymphoma that struck her while she was in her second year at college. She had to undergo a bone marrow transplant that nearly killed her. We were just getting used to dealing with that when in mid-fall, Richard (who was 47 at the time) was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was operated on in January, and barely six weeks later, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. Thanks to all the research he had already done, I could move on pretty quickly since by then, we were familiar with the oncology services at Beth Israel, and I decided to follow in his footsteps and get my care there as well. So in mid-March I had my surgery, followed by six weeks of daily radiation and then six months of chemo treatments.
As if that wasn’t enough, a couple of months after my surgery, Richard’s brother was also diagnosed with prostate cancer. Thank God, we were all among the lucky ones, because we are all still here and doing well. While I’m not sure all families experience the same kind of marathon, what I do know is that when the diagnosis of cancer is something you have to deal with, it takes your breath away. I must admit, I was fairly unconscious about the prevalence of cancer before that time. Sure, I knew it existed, but I also assumed it struck mostly old people, or those who smoked multiple packs of cigarettes each day, or those who lived in highly polluted congested cities. Or those who led really unhealthy lifestyles. Not people like us, who ate well – lots of fruits and vegetables, exercised, and lived in what appeared to be clean environments.

But all around me I suddenly became aware of other relatively young and healthy adults, and children, who randomly seemed to be struck by cancer. It was that sudden awareness that inspired me to stand up and try to do something about it. With the help of two friends, one a cancer survivor herself, and the other the mother of a young child with leukemia, we formed the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project. That was in 1997.

What we were focused on then, and the WCPP is still focused on today, is education and awareness building. We were not interested in pointing fingers, or placing blame. But we did want answers, and we did want information. And I daresay, we’ve made a hell of an impact in this town. We learned about so many of the seemingly harmless things that if you look a bit closer, are known or suspected to cause cancer. We learned about things that are common knowledge in other places – like Canada, and Europe and even California that are still “new ideas” here in Massachusetts. And we also learned about all the wonderful work that is being done in the interest of cancer prevention right here at home.

Prevention isn’t necessarily sexy. It doesn’t attract a lot of money or corporate support like cancer diagnosis or treatment. But once you accept that most educated people will move in the right direction once they are given the tools to learn how to live a healthier life, I believe that eventually, a critical mass of consumers will make the noise needed to move our society in the right direction. It took a great deal of perseverance, but here we are almost 14 years later, and because of all the dedicated people who have contributed to the body of knowledge we now have, the WCPP has a very strong reputation in town.

What Richard Morse said:

I want to emphasize that this is certainly not about me. It’s about her! And it is about you. The message is clear. We must ask each other to pay attention to what is harming our environment. If we do not, we will find ourselves sicker and the lives of our children shorter. Thank you for honoring us in this way. The real honor goes to the WCPP and the success it is having in educating our citizens about cancer in our community and how to combat it. The WCPP has done a great job, is doing a great job, and with help from all of us, will continue to do a great job. Please support them.
Let me close by saying: There used to be a sexist saying that “Behind every successful man, there is a woman.” Allow me to change this and simply say: “Behind this successful woman is a devoted husband.” I hope I have helped her, the WCPP, and our community.