Thursday, February 17, 2011

You Are Not Alone When the Darkness Falls

"You are not alone when the darkness falls", a quote from Dr. Franklin O. Smith, M.D. , Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, was spoken at a one-day conference offered free by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He was referring to those who are living with cancer, specifically blood cancers like the one that Casey's dad is surviving. This was the second of these conferences that we have attended since the diagnosis was made almost 3 years ago. As I listened to the speakers, I was comparing and contrasting the way cancer is talked about and treated with the disease of addiction.

Since Dr. Smith's topic was New Drug Development for Cancer, he focused on how long it takes to development new drugs and why the drugs are needed. I'm sure that there were several among the more than 170 in attendance, including Casey's dad, who are alive today because of the clinical trials for new drugs to treat their disease. In contrast, drugs that have been developed for the treatment of addiction are often met with opposition because they have not been a part of treatment modalities used in the past. This response totally disregards the fact that the new medication(s) may be what saves a person's life and that without this assistance, the person's chances of survival may be slim to none.

He also spoke of the efficacy of the modalities that had been previously used to treat childhood cancer. He concluded that the "future does not lie with these modalities". When and until we have a 100% success rate with addiction, we have reason to actively pursue other modalities of treatment for this disease as well. It is blatantly obvious that there is room for improvement in how we treat addiction.

Why does this resonate with me? During our crisis with Casey's disease, there were many meetings where the statement was read that "addiction is a disease much like cancer and diabetes". I believed and know now that is true. I thought at the time that would translate into the same kind of help and support for the disease of addiction. We quickly learned that was not the case.

As I reflected on this conference, I was thinking of all the families who are painfully aware of what it means to feel "alone when the darkness falls". I was trying to remember if I had ever heard of a conference for families on the disease of addiction, new treatments, treatment and recovery resources, a conference that would offer an opportunity to network and join with other families so they too can know that they "are not alone when the darkness falls". Honestly, I could not think of a single one.

There are many conferences for professionals in the field that are only advertised to that specific audience. There are none that I know of that offer a day of vital information and support for the families living with addiction. It was the summer that Casey died that I found out about The Kentucky School of Alcohol and Other Drug Studies at Northern Kentucky University. At that point, it had been held at Northern for about twenty years or more! Since then, I have missed only one year of the school and gained a wealth of information from the outstanding presenters who participate. This year's school will be held from July 17th - 21st.

This conference on blood cancers was about hope, hope for survival. Surviving the disease of addiction and living in recovery is also all about HOPE. My hope is that addiction will very soon be treated as a disease, much like cancer and diabetes.

Until next time. . . .

Casey's mom