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In Memory of Laura Ziskin

In any war, there are casualties. No matter how righteous the war may be, or how critical a victory is, there are some who will not live to see the war's end. This is particularly true of the war on cancer.

Sadly, that particular war lost one of its most influential leaders, activists, and spokeswomen on Sunday. Laura Ziskin, who by all accounts was one of the most influential people in the history of American film, lost her seven-year battle with breast cancer. She died at home, surrounded by her family.

Ms. Ziskin leaves behind a great many legacies. From a professional standpoint, the only word that can be used to describe her remarkable career is prolific. In an industry somewhat dominated by her male counterparts, she was wildly successful. Her filmography as producer and executive producer includes several Academy Award-winning films, box office record-setters, and some of the most well known films of her generation. Her first notable success was as executive producer of 1990s Pretty Woman, which launched the career of a then-relatively unknown Julia Roberts. She was also at the helm for As Good As it Gets, the 1997 film that garnered Academy Awards for both Jack Nicholson (Best Actor) and Helen Hunt (Best Actress). In 2002, she became the first woman to solo produce the Academy Awards, which she would do again in 2007. In addition, she was the executive producer responsible for giving us the Spiderman franchise, which includes some of the highest grossing films in history.

Her greatest legacy, however, is one I am sure she would say was her most beloved and important project. In 2008, Zisken, along with Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Ellen Ziffren, the Entertainment Industry Foundation, and the Noreen Fraser Foundation, announced the creation of Stand Up To Cancer. It is a cancer foundation unlike any other, promoting not only research, but also collaboration between the greatest medical minds in the world. That collaboration enables cutting-edge research and methods to move more swiftly from the idea phase to the application phase, a process that is essential to finding a cure as quickly as possible. SU2C has a singular goal: to defeat cancer, in all of its forms.

In their first telethon, an event that is central to their foundation, SU2C broadcast their efforts on the three major networks in the United States; CBS, ABC, and NBC. That initial telethon reached people in over 170 countries and raised more than $100 million. Two years later, the telethon was broadcast on more than nine networks. Major League Baseball has been a partner of SU2C since its inception. Their role in SU2C's mobile giving campaign features in-stadium PSA's and online promotions that have raised thousands and thousands of dollars. Major League Baseball continues to be one of SU2C's greatest allies.

The foundation that Ziskin helped create has been, and continues to be, a shining beacon in the war on cancer. Their manifesto, which can be found on their website says it better than I ever could:

This is where the end of cancer begins.

In any war, there are casualties. No matter how righteous the war may be, or how critical a victory is, there are some who will not live to see the war's end. This is particularly true of the war on cancer.

Sadly, that particular war lost one of its most influential leaders, activists, and spokeswomen on Sunday. Laura Ziskin, who by all accounts was one of the most influential people in the history of American film, lost her seven-year battle with breast cancer. She died at home, surrounded by her family.

Ms. Ziskin leaves behind a great many legacies. From a professional standpoint, the only word that can be used to describe her remarkable career is prolific. In an industry somewhat dominated by her male counterparts, she was wildly successful. Her filmography as producer and executive producer includes several Academy Award-winning films, box office record-setters, and some of the most well known films of her generation. Her first notable success was as executive producer of 1990s Pretty Woman, which launched the career of a then-relatively unknown Julia Roberts. She was also at the helm for As Good As it Gets, the 1997 film that garnered Academy Awards for both Jack Nicholson (Best Actor) and Helen Hunt (Best Actress). In 2002, she became the first woman to solo produce the Academy Awards, which she would do again in 2007. In addition, she was the executive producer responsible for giving us the Spiderman franchise, which includes some of the highest grossing films in history.

Her greatest legacy, however, is one I am sure she would say was her most beloved and important project. In 2008, Zisken, along with Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Ellen Ziffren, the Entertainment Industry Foundation, and the Noreen Fraser Foundation, announced the creation of Stand Up To Cancer. It is a cancer foundation unlike any other, promoting not only research, but also collaboration between the greatest medical minds in the world. That collaboration enables cutting-edge research and methods to move more swiftly from the idea phase to the application phase, a process that is essential to finding a cure as quickly as possible. SU2C has a singular goal: to defeat cancer, in all of its forms.

In their first telethon, an event that is central to their foundation, SU2C broadcast their efforts on the three major networks in the United States; CBS, ABC, and NBC. That initial telethon reached people in over 170 countries and raised more than $100 million. Two years later, the telethon was broadcast on more than nine networks. Major League Baseball has been a partner of SU2C since its inception. Their role in SU2C's mobile giving campaign features in-stadium PSA's and online promotions that have raised thousands and thousands of dollars. Major League Baseball continues to be one of SU2C's greatest allies.

The foundation that Ziskin helped create has been, and continues to be, a shining beacon in the war on cancer. Their manifesto, which can be found on their website says it better than I ever could:

This is where the end of cancer begins.

When together we become a force unmistakable.

A movement undeniable.

A light that cannot dim.

When we take our wild impossible dreams

And make them possible

Make them true

When together we rise as one

When we stand up

When we Stand Up To Cancer.

According to statistics, 1,500 people die everyday due to complications from cancer. Sadly, many of those people remain faceless to the larger portion of the population. Aside from their loved ones, none of us will ever understand the fight that they engaged in, or feel the frustration and helplessness those people felt as they faced cancer head on.

On Sunday, Laura Ziskin succumbed to cancer and became one of those 1,500. Thankfully, through her efforts and the efforts of SU2C, she will be remembered. Her spirit will continue to grow and thrive, and it will be seen on the face of every person her foundation saves now and as it continues to fight.

As you read this, I hope you will understand that cancer is an opponent we all face. One out of every two men and one out of every three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Those statistics are staggering, but they also bring a sense of hope. If cancer affects us all, in one way or another, than it must deal with all of us if it hopes to continue to do damage. And if we all stand up together and say, "No more,” cancer doesn't stand a chance.

Laura Ziskin knew that. And while it is sad to realize that she will not be here to see cancer finally defeated, we take solace in knowing that when we accomplish that goal, she will have been in our thoughts and prayers, pushing us to do everything in our power to continue the fight.

Stand with MLB and Stand Up 2 Cancer. Show your support and donate to the effort by going to su2c.org.