We were in Mattapoisett this weekend for a dedication ceremony at the local historical society. My mother-in-law, Polly Phipps, donated a nautical chart painted by the artist Clifford Ashley and the restored artwork was unveiled and celebrated for the jewel it is. This canvas mural had graced the ceiling of the ‘whaling room’ in the family home for almost a century, on a glassed in porch with a whale tooth for a doorstop and paneled walls where harpoons once hung (a number of which can now be found in the New Bedford Whaling Museum).
In addition to the cultural shebang and schmoozing with the family (my husband wryly noted that at least half the one hundred or so in attendance were related to him), we enjoyed time at the waterfront, lobster rolls, fried clams, a Chippi from Mirasol’s and a leisurely stroll through Ikea with Jem and Pete (sans David; he’s allergic to Ikea).
We needed to scurry back to Amherst on Sunday evening as David had to fly to Albuquerque on Monday morning and I had my weekly appointment at the Benson Henry Institute in Boston.
So that’s the garden variety news for the moment, but I’ve got a few things to report on the cancer front.
Sadly, Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, author of Anticancer, has passed away after surviving brain cancer for almost 19 years. One of his contributions to the literature on cancer was the facile way in which he broke down the science supporting his theories, making the information comprehensible and user friendly. I found inspiration in both his holistic approach to disease, as well as his prolonged survival. Nineteen years was amazing; I would have wished him more.
And now two tidbits more curious than anything. First, researchers at the University of Oxford in England have announced that tall women are at a greater risk for cancer. In fact, for every four inches over a base height of five foot one, the risk increased 16%. Blimey. I thought adolescence and shopping at Shelley’s Tall Girl Shoppe were enough of a disadvantage. Of course, if you read the article carefully, smoking related cancers are not included (I’m not clear if that addresses those of us with lung cancer who didn’t smoke). Another study is mentioned which indicates that long legs are associated with an increased lifespan. So, there you go–it all balances out, and life really is fair.
The curiouser: A molecular and cell biologist at UC Berkeley, David Duesberg, posits that cancer is actually an example of speciation, and can in fact be compared to a parasite. It is an interesting if rather creepy concept but I feel there are more than a few holes in it. I also have a personal quarrel with this quote from oncologist Dr. Mark Vincent, another proponent of the view that cancer is an evolved species:
“I think Duesberg is correct by criticizing mutation theory, which sustains a billion-dollar drug industry focused on blocking these mutations,” said Vincent, a medical oncologist. “Yet very, very few cancers have been cured by targeted drug therapy, and even if a drug helps a patient survive six or nine more months, cancer cells often find a way around it.”
Excuse me? Six or nine months? Ce n’est pas vrai! Leave the (billion?) dollar drug industry alone! Some of our very lives depend on said industry…
Which brings me to my final bit of news. On Monday Alice (Dr. Shaw) called to tell me that she’d already placed my name in queue for the Novartis LDK 378 and that two slots had opened up. If I were not to fill a slot, it was possible that I might wait several months for another chance.
I mulled it over for twenty-four hours. Physically my decline has been slow, but these things have a tendency to pick up speed and lately I am aware of building momentum.
When I emailed my affirmative to Alice, she responded immediately in support of my decision.
That night I felt an anxiety lift that I hadn’t even known I’d been feeling. My sense of relief lasted until the following morning, when I really began to think about the implications of my situation. I felt a little bit afraid, and not so much about enrolling in a another phase I clinical trial, but about what would happen if I didn’t.
I’ve visited my mortality enough times now that you might think we’d become a tad familiar.
But no. I prefer to remain strangers as long as possible.
In a few weeks, I will be traveling down an unfamiliar path once again. I’m hoping it leads to another miracle.