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In Their Own Words: Paul Begala

The V Foundation for Cancer Research is successful thanks to the contributions of many – donors, corporate partners, our incredible Board and Scientific Advisory Committee and the amazing researchers to whom we award grants. With “In Their Own Words,” we sit down with key members of our team to learn more about their commitment to the V Foundation and their personal desire to put an end to cancer. In this edition, we chat with CNN political contributor Paul Begala, who is also the featured speaker at this year’s Virginia Vine.

The V Foundation: How has cancer affected you personally?

Paul Begala: In a 2017 poll sponsored by CBS News, the majority of Americans said they or someone in their family had been diagnosed with cancer. I am part of that majority. In 2003, my father – who never smoked, rarely drank and was a committed runner – was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma. He was later diagnosed with four other primary cancers: melanoma, thymic cancer, prostate cancer, and multiple myeloma. The mantle cell alone was supposed to take his life within three years, never mind the other four. He lived for 13 more years, got to see his grandchildren grow and passed peacefully at age 82. That’s thanks to cancer research. My stepfather was not as lucky (if you can call having five kinds of cancer lucky). In July of 2009, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Five months later he was gone.

TVF: What is your message when speaking to people about cancer?

PB: Cancer research is a life-or-death issue, yet it’s one that too many of us ignore and all of us underfund. The budget for the National Cancer Institute is $5.74 billion. By contrast, we spend over $18 billion on Easter alone. I celebrate Easter, but it is crazy that we spend three times more on bonnets and chocolate rabbits than we do on the National Cancer Institute. We need to do more, and we can do more.

TVF: Why is it so important for you to get involved with organizations like the V Foundation?

PB: Cancer knows no rhyme nor reason. It cares not about race or religion or gender or age. It doesn’t care if you are kind or nasty, rich or poor, old or young, male or female, gay or straight. But cancer does care if you are generous. Or, rather, cancer research does. The V Foundation has tapped the generosity of folks like you to invest more than a quarter of a billion dollars in cancer research. Because of that research, there is a far greater chance than ever that, if the doc says, “it’s cancer,” that the doc’s next sentence will be, “There’s a very promising new treatment. You’re going to beat this.” Coach Valvano was a great coach and a motivational genius. I love that his genius lives on through the V Foundation. I love that we can have a good time with great people and support an important cause in the memory of a wonderful man.

TVF: What message do you have for anyone currently dealing with a cancer diagnosis?

PB: There is never a good time to get cancer, but there has never been a better time than today. The most brilliant, dedicated, creative people in the world are racing against the clock to bring cures from the bench to the bedside. Fight. Fight every day. Because you are not alone in this fight. Generous people are funding the research, and brilliant people are conducting it. Keep fighting.

TVF: What would Victory Over Cancer® look like to you?

PB: I already know. I went to college with a gal named Annie. In 2001, she was diagnosed with what was then a life-threatening cancer. She fought. Docs worked. Researchers burned the midnight oil. And they found a breakthrough for her cancer. Eighteen years later, she is still cancer-free and a grandmother. That’s victory. We need to bring Annie’s victory to every patient with every form of cancer, so every Annie can live to become a granny.