Reading About Cancer

Over the past week, I’ve been reading about cancer to prepare to participate in a ten-week undergraduate summer research program at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

From the New York Times Magazine I’ve read The Health Issue: The New Anatomy of Cancer. Six articles comprised this issue and dealt with the common theme of cancer from various interesting approaches.

I’m also reading Current Advances in Osteosarcoma: “In order to improve the outcome of this disease, the biology of osteosarcoma needs to be better understood. There are numerous investigators around thUntitled.pnge world who have made seminal discoveries about the important molecular pathways and genetic alterations that contribute to the development and metastases of osteosarcoma. Other investigators have proposed novel therapeutic strategies including some based on the molecular and genetic phenotype of the disease. This volume will provide a comprehensive review of these new discoveries in one singular text, which will help move the field forward.” Admittedly, this text is much less accessible than the New York Times articles, but it should be good preparation for the work I will be doing this summer.


Serendipitously, Humans of New York has run a series of stories gathered from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center pediatrics as I have been doing all of this reading. Much less dense than the other pieces I have read, these brief glimpses into lives touched by cancer have provided a compelling reminder of the human suffering and hope at stake. “The fight against pediatric cancer is uniquely tragic because the battlefield is the body of a child. So these are definitely war stories. But as with every war, there are heroes. You’ll meet the amazing doctors, nurses, and researchers who have committed their lives to this fight. You’ll meet the moms and dads who refuse to crumble while living out their greatest fear. And most importantly, you’ll meet the reason that everyone is fighting, and the greatest warriors of all—the kids. So yes, these are war stories. But this is also the story of humanity’s bold response to the greatest injustice of nature.”

I feel happy because I’ve done my part. But now I’m almost finished. It’s time for the young people out there to finish the job. They’re going to be smarter than us. They’ll know more. They’re going to unzip the DNA and find the typo. They’re going to invent targeted therapies so we don’t have to use all this radiation. —Dr. Boulad, Humans of New York

After this inundation of information about cancer, I am very eager to begin my work in a few weeks. I am also glad to know that as a member of the Be the Match bone marrow registry I am already contributing in some small way.

Along with the many fun adventures that this quasi-adulthood of college brings, it presents a new capacity for self-determination. One moment when I exercised this ability last year was when I researched and then made the commitment to join the registry. If your life has taken a route that veers far from cancer research but you feel prompted by one of the pieces I mentioned to play a part in the endeavor against cancer, I’d encourage you to look into joining.


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