For the past 11 years I have studied cancer in one way or another. I performed my Ph.D. research on the DNA repair mechanism Base Excision Repair. I then performed research on Homologous Recombination, targeted radiopharmaceuticals and metastatic breast cancer (all were separate projects, not combined). I understand cancer at the molecular level. I marvel at how complex it appears and yet am still hopeful that a cure can be found for each different type relatively soon.
I have friends and family who have battled cancer and won. O; others were less fortunate and are sadly no longer with us. For me, the research I performed was personal. It was me Vs. Cancer; on the molecular level. I only knew what others wanted to tell me about their treatments and the side effects they were suffering. If they didn’t share it, there was no way for me to know what they were going through. Until now. I discovered a wonderful blog a few months ago which is written daily by Lisa Boncheck Adams www.lisabadams.com .
I found Lisa through Twitter @AdamsLisa . I follow a number of people who perform cancer research and one of them retweeted something from her. I was instantly hooked. I became an avid follower and signed up so that I automatically get her blog every day. At that time, she was talking about life after surviving cancer; encouraging people to go and get regular health checkups, and take no chances.
Then, in October, everything changed. Her cancer was back with a vengeance, and it had metastasized to her bones. Even though I had only been following her for a few weeks, I was stunned and couldn’t believe it. Within a very short period of time, I had come to care about her, a complete stranger who I will never meet!
Lisa then showed amazing strength. She continued to blog about her treatments, the decisions she had to make, side effects, and how she feels from day to day. It is amazing. I am learning about the disease I know intimately in a largely molecular way from an individual who is attempting to provide information and guidance to those who are suffering from cancer, but also those who care about a patient. She is giving valuable advice on how to break the news to people, and how to take it and then support the individual.
If I had found this blog (or one like it) while I was still at the bench researching, it would have been a mini pep talk every morning before work. If your experiments weren’t working well and you are wondering if it is all worth it, one blog entry would probably be enough to send you scurrying for your lab coat and pipette. I encourage everyone who is studying a disease to locate a blog written by someone who is suffering from it. Then, on the days your motivation is lacking, you have your “adrenaline shot” to get you back into the swing of things with a determined attitude.
A few weeks ago, Lisa began blogging to a wider audience on the Huff Post. When I saw the news, I was so happy for her, and also relieved that more people will be touched by her words. She is doing such an amazing thing, sharing this most intimate of journeys so that others can learn and benefit from her experience. For that I am immensely grateful.
For those of us who study disease in tubes, it is always a good idea for us to get everything into perspective. I used to find mine walking around the hospital, seeing the patients who are in the middle of a war, and finding the strength to continue the fight in a different way. Now, I read Lisa’s words. I hope to encourage everyone to keep perspective on the big picture. We are not killing cells in tubes. We are not manipulating proteins. We aim to cure disease. I hope that you can all learn new aspects of your research through finding your “Lisa.”, I am very grateful that I found mine. Long may she continue her battle.
In return, I aim to ensure all the summer and graduate students I advise know there are many ways to learn about disease; sometimes the personal way is the most effective route.