May 20, 2012
Last week was a hard one.
Two good friends of mine died.
For one of them, Erik Ness of Las Cruces, I wrote an obituary for The New Mexican. He was the longtime communications director for the state Farm & Livestock Bureau. He and I go back 40 years. We met in 1972 when both of us were crazy college kids. We remained friends long after we both became crazy adults.
Like me, Erik had an intense interest in politics — two New Mexico governors from different parties paid tribute to him in the obit I wrote. And, like me, he was obsessed by music. He was a songwriter and guitar picker. He’d often call me out of the blue when he got some wild idea or scheme to promote the music he loved.
The day after Erik died, Richard Sandoval left us as well.
Erik and Richard moved in different circles, so I’m not sure whether they knew each other. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. Each of them seemed to know everybody, and I know they had several mutual friends who are grieving.
Both had wonderful, devilish senses of humor. Both of them always made me laugh. Both of them left behind great families.
And both of them died of the same terrible disease: pancreatic cancer.
A couple of days after my obituary for Erik, I received an email from an Albuquerque woman named Nancy Murphy Bowles. She didn’t know Erik.
“I am the community representative in Albuquerque for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network,” she said. Bowles said she and her husband will be going to Washington, D.C., next month to visit Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, as well as Rep. Martin Heinrich. “We are trying to convince them to cosponsor the bills S. 362 and H.R. 733.”
Those bills, known as the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act, Bowles said, would require the National Cancer Institute to come up with a five-year plan on treating pancreatic cancer.
According to the website for Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, the disease is “one of the most deadly cancers. 94 percent of patients will die within five years of diagnosis — only 6 percent survive more than five years and 74 percent of pancreatic cancer patients die within the first year of diagnosis. These statistics have changed little in the last 40 years.”
The website continues, saying pancreatic cancer is “severely under-researched and under-funded. Unlike many cancers, there are no early detection tools or effective treatments for pancreatic cancer. Part of the problem is that the National Cancer Institute allocates approximately 2 percent of its $5 billion budget for pancreatic cancer research.”
Pancreatic cancer is “behind in nearly every important grant mechanism funded by the NCI,” the website says.
The good news for the bill is that more than half of all House members and nearly half of all senators have signed on as co-sponsors. It has bipartisan support.
But strangely, none of New Mexico’s delegation has signed on.
So when Mr. and Mrs. Bowles come knocking next month, I hope Bingaman, Udall and Heinrich give them a serious listen. And I hope the couple pays a visit to Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Steve Pearce as well.
And maybe the couple should say that Erik Ness and Richard Sandoval sent ’em.
UPDATE: 4:30 p.m. Friends of Erik Ness should check out the tributes from Karl Moffat and Bill Divan HERE