Year after year I dread this day, March 9th, the day cancer took Max from us. No matter how many years pass, how excited I might be about our progress, our goals and vision for the future, as the day approaches, I feel a dark cloud settling in. Suddenly I am back to 1991 and the words of the doctor resonate loud, “I have nothing more”.
One doesn’t get over losing a child to cancer, nor does one get over a young mother losing their life, a sibling, a friend. There is no closure, there is no moving on; one just adjusts to live with that, not by choice but because there is no other option. However, if there is something I am grateful for, it is for the opportunity to turn the rage and frustration of not being able to save him into fuel that stops other families from going through this tremendous pain. And since these feelings never go away, every day is a new day with new opportunities to help more families.
I didn’t know then what I know now, that most, if not all, innovative life-saving medicines for cancer and other critical illnesses will never reach most people in the world who need them due to underlying structural global disparities. In other words, people cant access treatment simply because of where they were they live, that is the way it is and the world accepts it. Today I say no more and I ask you to join me in no longer accepting the status quo. It is not true that we can’t bring equitable access to treatment; it is not true that it is not possible to save these precious lives. Every reason we give to each other of why it is not possible is just an excuse. Together with our partners we have, in fact, shown it is possible and we have obliterated disparities in survival for the type of cancer Max had and more. We can do it for other illnesses as well and because we can, we must.
Today I pause and invite you to take a moment to remember our loved ones who have gone too soon, to say a prayer and light a candle, and to re-commit to continue to work as hard as we can to prevent unnecessary suffering and premature deaths.
Max Rivarola, October 19, 1973 – March 9, 1991
May his soul rest in peace and may our memories never fade.