I have always been in love with words. I’m a word junkie. And lately I have a new favorite word: Collaboration. I’ve had to learn to spell it…I still want to put and “e” where the second “o” goes.

I looked up the word collaboration. One definition I found of the word was: “The process by which people/organizations work together to accomplish a common mission.”

Another I liked even better was; “A process where groups that disagree, often significantly, come together to identify common interests, define common problems, and seek solutions that reach beyond what any one of them could accomplish on their own.”

Cancer has made me come to respect and revere the ability of collaboration to change lives, to change the world.

The word first became significant to me when I attended the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in April of this year as part of their Scientist-Survivor Program. Survivors like myself were partnered with other survivors who advocated for those affected by cancer. We partnered with cancer scientists, physicians, and even the Deputy Director of the NCI as part of a collaborative effort to advance each others causes. We were able to advance our mutual goals by communicating with each other.

I met brilliant scientists who had graduated from Harvard with PhDs who wanted to collaborate with me (!) in my helping those affected be cancer, who valued my part in the cancer community. I witnessed thousands of scientists sharing information and collaborating to defeat cancer. What I learned from those interactions has made me a better advocate, both for those diagnosed with cancer and for those working to defeat cancer.

We live in a competitive society. We all want to be the best. Funny thing, though, I think most of us feel the greatest satisfaction when we come together…maybe during a catastrophe like a hurricane or tornado or an earthquake or 9/11. When we need to come together to make a difference…..when we collaborate. When we have to come together because the problem is bigger than any one person or small group can handle. In a crisis, when we collaborate, magic happens. Magic that makes us feel part of a greater good, that makes us feel like we count, that makes us feel we make a difference.

September 11th was a crisis, an emergency that bonded us, but cancer kills as many as the terrorist attacks EVERY TWO DAYS. It kills more than 500,000 in the United States every year. Cancer is a crisis. Cancer is a huge hurricane, bigger than Katrina. Cancer is a thousand tornadoes, a multitude of earthquakes.

But collaboration….the great scientific minds coming together, the resources and passion each us can contribute, the potential for worldwide communication now made possible by the Internet, the knowledge made available by the genome project, the banding together to fight a common enemy. There is now potential for the ultimate collaborative magic.

It’s why Stand Up To Cancer so inspires me. Collaboration is what SUC2 epitomizes. Collaboration on a grand scale, a unified scale. Dream teams of collaborating TV networks and anchors, dream teams of those famous and those common all affected by cancer, dream teams of scientists, dream teams of artists. The possibility that not being the best, but that sharing our best together ultimately changes the world. All of us coming together to defeat cancer, all of us focusing on “we” and not “I”. All of us banding together to defeat a common enemy. The ultimate act of love, altruism at its best.

Cancer, the enemy, affords us all a chance to make a difference, a chance to bond, a chance to work together for a common goal, a chance to defeat a common enemy, a chance for all of us to count, to matter.

All of us…we can all collaborate to become part of the ultimate dream team that makes a difference the enemy that affects us all.