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Wilkommen to my blog - if you're looking for ramblings on life as a junior doctor, my attempts to dual-moonlight as a scientist and balancing all that madness with a life, you've come to the right place. I normally live and work as a doctor in the UK, and I'm currently taking a year out to do research in the USA. All original content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Middle Ring - how to avoid Vanishing Neighbours

Spring in Rhode Island
I have it on good authority that the cherry blossom in the UK is in full bloom - we have a way to go here in Connecticut, but Spring is definitely in the air, finally.  The walk to work feels fresh rather than freezing - hurray! - and means people are a bit more willing to offer a 'hi there' and 'hello'.

Middle Ring embracing at Brown.
I recently went to a talk by an American scholar, Marc Dunkelman.  I'm still working my way through his book, 'The Vanishing Neighbo(u)r', where he talks about how the traditional relationships that make up (American) society have evolved and the consequences of this evolution.  He describes how we, as individuals, are like planets with rings of people around us.  We nurture the rings close to us (our closest friends, family etc), and those far away (aspirational ones - things we are aiming for or want, from people we likely don't know); but these are at the expense of the middle ring - people we know in the 'ish' sense - people we work with, the people who live in the same building, the guy who owns the coffee shop, the postman etc.  So for example, I came home on Sunday evening and quickly Skyped my mum (Mother's Day!) - but pre-Skype I couldn't have done this and instead might have said hello to my neighbour.

'Spring' in windswept NYC
Does this resonate with you?  I have certainly pondered it. I have come to think I have two levels of middle ring - the people who are in my immediate vicinity such as neighbours, the shopkeeper etc; and the second level of middle ring - people who could easily be inner ring were it not for timing, geography and hours in the day, such as the new friends I made at a Fulbrighty seminar I went to last weekend with 130-or-so new friends, or indeed travel friends from the past.  I feel pretty content with the Middle Rings - I appreciate and nurture them as much as I possibly can, the latter often with the help of social media and an open-minded attitude to friendship.  An inevitable consequence of my globe hopping?  I suspect so.  But I don't believe it's a bad thing.  It just makes the world a much smaller place.
As evidence of its magical power, here, in no particular order, are a few recent musings from both Middle Rings in my world.

- Coffee.  I came back from Cali and it's all I crave.  Best parts of this are fun encounters at my new favourite coffee shop (which has a tree inside!) and the lovely couple who own it (MIDDLE RING ALERT).  For me, the UK's #1 tea fan, this is RADICAL.

@AS220 print shop
- People love a British accent.  No.  People love MY British accent.  Given that in the UK, my weird stunted Scottish twang is often confused for Irish/Canadian/American/Swedish, this is quite an adjustment to be told by the Middle Rings that I sound 'incredibly British' which in turn is 'so cute and wonderful'.  As anyone who knows me and my feelings about compliments, this is... challenging and hilarious.  I don't think I've ever been called cute in my life (apart from in reference to my sneezes) and I didn't think the British accent was held in particularly high regard - apparently I was wrong!

- Brits everywhere - we really do apologise too much.  A new Argentinian friend told me that every time I want to say 'I'm sorry' I must instead say 'I'm happy'.  I thought that was pretty neat.  Sometimes the Middle Ring just tells it like it is.

- Being a Fulbrighter is like giving the Middle Ring a perma-hug - but what does being a Fulbrighter mean to me?  I'd say many things, but will boil it down to two taken from that recent seminar - it means having only a two hour break during a full day and night of activities, but still finding a bunch of people who want to use that time to go running with you, and discovering that even if the club you end up at is fantastically awful, you will still have everyone embracing it 100% with not a hint of snobbery.  Probably with some traditional dancing going on, even though what's playing is some dance music disaster.  And obviously, assumed friendship.

- The world is full of incredibly kind people who shift inevitably between Inner and Middle Ring, and I'm just kind of mega blown away by that.  I will never change being open to people and sharing worlds whenever I can, and hope I will continue to channel that in both my personal and professional lives, because the inner/middle continuum is a great one.

- I was nowhere near as embarrassed as I should have been when singing away to the radio at the top of my lungs whilst in the tissue culture room, thinking the lab was empty, when my boss peered round the door to say he's 'enjoying' my musical contribution.  Not even a blush when the repair man came in as I bopped away to Gershwin.  Perhaps lack of concern at Middle Ring embarrassment is a sign of comfort in life (as one should never feel embarrassed around the inner ring, and you shouldn't care what relative strangers in the outer ring think anyway!).

- I have instigated a new activity every time someone has a science success - it's called 'Learn a Ceilidh Dance'.  With much arm twisting, I got two of my lab people to learn the Gay Gordons to celebrate a much-wished-for successful Western Blot, and have the promise of a dance with my current lab collaborator should our experiment work next week.  Perhaps the Middle Ring lends itself particularly well to Cultural Exchange?

@AS220 Youth piece
As an emigre, I guess I must accept that to an extent, I neglect the first level of the Middle Ring because I sometimes prioritise the inner ring with the help of Skype and so on.  But equally, it is phenomenal how happy and glow-y I am when I have that chat with the coffee shop couple, or the lady at the post office, or play squash with a lab friend, or whatever.  Regarding the second Middle Ring, well I think it's pretty telling that I have just made my first social activity plans for my return to the UK with the friends I made a decade ago in Ghana for our 'ten year anniversary'.  So Middle Ring does not mean neglect if you don't want it to.
Pawtucket Cotton Mill

So I guess the Middle Ring is one I embrace as much as I can given the international spread of my friends and family, and it's been pretty damn good to me.  Maybe the Middle Ring is more about just making an effort, being more ready to say hello, and keeping the door permanently open?

Thursday, 12 March 2015

A Man's a Man For A' That?

The first lines of Rabbie Burns' poem will be well known to anyone who grew up in Scotland.

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave - we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!

I recently read the memoir of a woman who had been exiled to Siberia from Poland during the Second World War.  Near the end, she talks about how hunger, a theme that is interwoven at every stage of her tale, is the worst form of torture.  She describes how hunger eats away at your soul, takes your energy and removes your hope.  When I was a 22-year-old living in London, I lived on £1 a day for a week to increase my understanding of the impact of hunger.  One week of carbs and not much else allowed me to empathise with hunger and poverty in a way I could scarcely have anticipated beforehand.  After just one week I felt tired, fed up, focus-less, disinterested and out of steam. I couldn't believe the all-encompassing impact hunger would have on my ability to do even the most basic tasks, let alone study or work.  And I only had to do that for one week - I am clearly not suggesting I can relate to the long-term suffering experienced by the woman I was reading about in the book, or the many millions of people in the world who are hungry everyday.  Hunger is torture.

Every day I walk to work through the centre of my Connecticut town.  Usually it's a quiet walk; a few others head to the medical laboratories on foot.  But as I cross the two main roads near the hospital, I usually encounter a few of the city's homeless community.  The hospital resides in one of the more troubled areas of town, and we are advised not to venture beyond the other side of the hospital for our own safety.  When I finish late in the lab, I get the university shuttle bus to my door because it is apparently too dangerous to walk home alone.

Despite my travels and clinical experience in a few developing countries, poverty in the USA exists in a way I have never seen before.  This is not just the lot of my city of residence - I don't think I've taken a single ride on the subway in New York without being accosted by someone begging with a speech in the tube carriage.  Homeless people live on many a San Francisco street corner.  Many have mental health issues - which is worth noting given the recent shooting of a man in Los Angeles who was homeless following treatment for mental illness.  The chasm between rich and poor feels enormous, and intensely along racial lines. Is it like this back in the UK and I just haven't noticed?  Having trained to be a doctor in one of the most deprived parts of the UK, perhaps, but nowhere near to the same extremes.  In my as-yet brief medical career in the UK, I have seen many sides of society through my patients, and feel we can relate to each other in some way, regardless of wealth, poverty or anything else.  Here it feels like the divide is astronomically bigger.  Add gun control (or lack thereof) to the equation and it's a toxic mix that feels very much like 'us' versus 'them'.  When you have nothing, I guess what is there to lose?

The political divide here reflects the manner in which people do, or don't, want to deal with this.  I guess it's basically socialism versus conservatism - is the state responsible for supporting everyone to give them a fair shot, or is it up to the individual?  Personally, I find it very hard to stomach the latter argument; when the abandonment from society is so complete with regards to housing, education and healthcare, where is the individual supposed to start when they can neither shave nor wash, buy new shoes never mind a suit, or be adequately nourished to the point where one can think straight?  If this was a country struggling to make ends meet I would understand - but this is the wealthiest country in the world, no?

We are made to feel like we don't matter as individuals all the time - either by people who we know (argh!), or by the bigger institutions that rule the world (double argh!).  I hate it when people make me feel like I don't matter - not because I think I'm the most important person in the world, but because I'm a person with feelings, ideas and thoughts, and in my old age have learnt my worth in the world.  I struggle to know how to deal with living in an environment where so many people must feel like no-one cares, and to know what I can personally do about it.

As Spring seems to finally be arriving in Connecticut, and the piles of snow beside the road finally have a chance to melt, I am relieved also for those who call the frozen pavements 'home' for the night that warmer times are coming.  Certainly more so than in the UK, I give up my spare dollars when I have them, accepting this is a short fix, and that the reasons for this divide are far more complex than this blog has space for.  I can't change an entire social set up on my own, as a foreigner, in nine months - but feel utterly dissatisfied with the apparently rhetorical question of 'well what can I do?'.  I'm running a half marathon next month in NYC.  I'm not doing a formal fundraising thing, but if you are so inclined, I would much appreciate your throwing a few pennies/cents to Columbus House which is based near where I live.

On the wall by my mother's desk at home is pinned a prayer that has always resonated with me, increasingly so as I get older (written by Reinhold Niebuhr, American theologian who, as it turns out, studied at Yale Divinity School.)

'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace...'

I hear what he's saying. But when it comes to poverty, it's overall rather depressing to think that we haven't progressed much from Robert Burns' sentiments, despite the fact they were written over 200 years ago. And when it comes to the USA, it is this powerlessness to help one's fellow man that is probably the number one thing that stops most Brits I have met from contemplating a long term emigration to this side of the Atlantic.

 America, land of the free. Well, if you can afford it.  

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Then Came The Morning (Said the Scientist)

A New Hampshire morning...
... celebrated with snow angels - surprisingly tricky in deep snow
I have always been a morning person.  I am one of those weirdos who basically never sets an alarm because, barring disasters, I will always wake up early.  Perhaps it's my body giving me a metaphor for life; that every day is new and something to look forward to, or that days should be enjoyed in their entirety.  (If only it were a metaphor for me being early, or at least on time.  Neither of which are my strong points).  Maybe that's why some of my favourite songs are about mornings - Early in the Morning (James Vincent McMorrow), Saturday Morning (The Eels), Dawn (from P+P - Jean-Yves Thibaudet) and of course, if you're ready with a bit of air guitar, Beautiful Day (U2).  Friends from teenage times will remember that throughout the Maroon 5 music phase that swept our high school years, Sunday Morning was my favourite song - OH I've just put it on; SO WONDERFUL!  I've started listening to an awesome Brooklyn-based country band called The Lone Bellow, from whose album I've borrowed the title of this blog post (which in fairness could be interpreted as sad - but somehow manages to be uplifting!).  Even my favourite composer, Max Bruch, has some wonderful Morgenlieder which soothe and uplift the heart.

Food of kings - simple, but effective.
I am trying to translate this approach to mornings to the laboratory - I started writing this blog post when some of my 'science' started going right, but then stopped because I didn't want to jinx it.  Much like using the 'q' word in hospital ('quiet'), saying 'lab stuff is working' is a sure-fire way to ensure the good times come to a swift end.  I was getting incredibly frustrated a few weeks ago, and frankly disheartened, by the fact that nothing was working.  This is the lot of the scientist, and you're probably bored, dear blog reader, of hearing me whine about it.  But Science is not so much a Science as an Art, and therefore the more you get stuck in, the more variables and variants there are, and the more creative you can be with it.  Perhaps that's why so many scientists are keen on art and music - we're really creative types, just with pipettes rather than paintbrushes.  I miss my paintbrushes though - they didn't make the temporary emigration cut :(!  Fortunately I have my violin here - but then I don't know what I'd do without her.

My research project here is to do with brain tumours - gliomas.  A hugely under researched area in comparison to cancers of the lung, breast and colon to name but a few, it attracts a disproportionately small amount of funding relative to the number of people who develop brain tumours.  I have cared for a number of patients with brain tumours - a horrible disease with limited and frankly vintage treatment options.  I am trying to develop a new brain tumour cell line by incorporating a well-known but poorly understood genetic mutation into brain cells.  The aim is to better understand the impact of the mutation, with the long term aim of developing new therapeutics.  Easy!

The biggest challenge with gene-based research like this is that we know so much and yet so little.  The human genome project was published in 2001, but we still don't really know what to do with this wealth of knowledge.  I'm currently trying to take advantage of DNA's natural ability to fix itself and the impact this has on the strength of the bonds between the two strands of DNA in this area to work out which of my cells has been clever enough to take up my mutation.  But this technology is extremely new - even the ability to sequence DNA in affordable fashion is pretty radical.

...and the flip side... but a justified statement.
Life is far too short to hold grudges, so as with most things, I am quick to forgive science its transgressions when it doesn't play the game - just an extra challenge to work around.  And it's fun working out why not when it's not.  And certainly makes traipsing to work in anything up to -18C with light, glittery snow falling even though it's March entirely worthwhile.  I attach some photos from a wee trip we made this weekend up to New Hampshire - good food, good friends, good hiking, good for the soul.  An excellent way to soothe any science or life stressors - which I still think I have been remarkably lucky with. Case in point: I discovered yesterday I will be homeless here in a couple of months - a problem that was solved within 12 hours thanks to generous offers of spare rooms.  See?  This is why overall I refuse to see people as anything other than wonderful and good.  

When I think back, many of my happiest and most significant memories are mornings.  Surely that's the true definition of a morning person?  But now I must insist.  Pick any of the above, crank it up to full volume, and if you're not either soothed or dancing around your room like an idiot you're doing it wrong.  Because no morning songs are ever sad, and I'm rooting for joy all round right now!

(And please could y'all not have any more major car crashes in my absence. Or minor ones for that matter.  Practically gave me a heart attack, and I'm not licensed to do anything about that over here).  

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Identity Crisis, doctor style

My sister and I often reflect on how strange it is that activities we were forced to participate in as children, such as weekend walks in the countryside, are now activities that we proactively seek out with fervour and enthusiasm.  It is true that as an adult, I definitely find both energy and solace in mountains and by the sea.  As such, I left a few pieces of myself in the Sierra Nevada, and in the Pacific Ocean on the Californian coast for safe keeping before heading back to the frozen East Coast.  

Ocean Beach, SF
Because did you know that emigrating causes one to have something of an identity crisis?  

Since I was 14 years old, all I wanted to do was become a doctor.  And then I became a doctor, and loved it, and didn't mind the long hours, being scared witless, the crying-in-broom-cupboard moments and my frustrations when my knowledge hit a wall.  I count myself incredibly lucky to never have regretted my choice of career, with the occasional traumatic on-call exception.  
Not the worst sight to wake up to...
Camp stove dinner triumph
But moving to America has been a bit like being on life heroin - you suddenly think about what life is really about, and what the possibilities are.  Of course I still want to be a doctor, and a scientist.  But it has been the first opportunity I've had to reflect on the various little side projects I've done along the way - this blog for one thing, but also other writing projects for other blogs and journals, medical politics work with the BMA, integrating global health aspects into both clinical and research work, teaching anyone from primary school tots and teenagers to medical students and other junior doctors, travelling with my trusty (and now verging on falling apart) rucksack... I mean, cool, but it kind of makes my head hurt just thinking about how I squeezed it all in.  And now that, lucky bum that I am, I have got my dream job back in Oxford (plus/minus international research element) for a few years, I feel compelled to take the chance to chill the hell out and give life a little time to happen with some of the aforementioned projects and just in general.  The question is - what does that even mean?

A few thousand feet up and 12 miles later
The lovely fellow Fulbrighter with whom I hiked and camped around Yosemite National Park recently and I were discussing this balance of knowing what you CAN do with what you WANT to or SHOULD do.  Mainly because we're conscious that, as Fulbrighters, we're seen as these super career-hungry go-getters with endless focus and drive.  Well, true that I don't like to be bored (or boring), but speaking for the two of us, we're just massive nerds who love what we do.  Go-getting, me?!  That just sounds hilarious.  I've come to realise that I'm getting to a stage in my as-yet fledgeling career where I'm going to have to start making decisions about what I want the rest of my life to look like and what activities will be involved.  This is borne out of loving clinical medicine and *all-the-other-stuff-I-listed-above*, but that there are only so many hours in the day.  Plus it's just awesome to give life itself a chance to happen in all its randomness and unexpectedness.  I believe doing a job like clinical medicine also lends itself well to a bit of mix and matching if you want it to be.  For example, I did a trial run of doing a proper bit of writing while I was in California (those train rides are long...) and it was wonderful (experientially, that is. The quality of the content... tbc...).  

Managed to turn my back on that view long enough to smile at a camera...
Don't get me wrong, these are very first world problems.  I am lucky to do a job I could do anywhere and prefer to embrace the uncertainties ahead. But I also know all too well that life is short and beautiful, as my time in Cali reminded me.  In the interim, I also wish I could be gifted my appetite and the ability to sleep back, which, despite the glorious physical exhaustion of the last few days seem to have both temporarily left me.  A bit of solid reflection on the kindness shown to me by new and old friends in Cali, the East Coast and UK (even if not all are UK based at the moment) already helps.  I was thinking as I headed back to Connecticut from California how crazy it is that I came here just five short months ago, not really knowing a soul, and how lucky I am for the multi-national friends I have made, in addition to the wonderful old friends from various life adventures who continue to add sparkle to my life.  People are so GOOD!  The next four months will whizz by.  For some reason, that reminds me of a passage I read during the summer which gives me a big smile whenever I think of it.
'And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.' (1 Cor 13.13)
After all, an identity crisis is not so bad as long as you have some lovely folks by your side.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

What they don't tell you about science (and medicine)

When I turned five, my birthday present was my first bike.  It was pale forget-me-not blue, and I was so excited to ride it on the thin concrete patio that linked the house to our back garden.  Living in the West of Scotland, despite having a birthday in June, it was still fortunate to have nice enough weather to do a trial run on the day itself.  That was a great bike.
I want to ride my bicycle...
So it was rather a treat to get to ride an almost identical bike several thousand miles away, 21-and-a-half years on.  Riding through Sacramento's sunny streets on a 'winter' (read: 18 degrees celsius) afternoon is just one of the many heartwarming, life-loving moments of recent days after an incredibly stressful couple of weeks (/months!).  

Napa Valley
I've listed this posting as 'What they don't tell you about science (and medicine)' - but perhaps I should call it 'How to pick a job which is nothing like what people think it is'.  People often say to me 'what a solid career choice you've made' or 'it's a job for life' - and about my time in the US as a researcher at Yale as 'you're sorted' and ''you'll always get a job in science'.  I've never believed any of these, but these last couple of months prove, rightly, that nothing is certain.  I applied for a job to return to almost as soon as I arrived in the USA, along with thousands of junior doctors across the UK.  I was lucky enough to get consecutive job interviews, first in December and again in January; but that involved two trips back to the UK.  There's nothing like the cost of a plane ticket to put on the pressure. And justifying your salt as a doctor is stressful both in the context of having done it for the last 2 years, and in my case taking some time out to do research - you feel that you have a lot to justify.  By no means is it seen as a positive thing by all people that I've taken myself off Stateside for the year.

Macarons! Yum yum yum.
The route to becoming a total wine snob...
What's joyous is that I get to do this all over again in 2-3 years' time.  And then another few years after that.  And that's just the clinical bit, where at least there are usually jobs around.  Depending on how much I wish to make science an integral part of my career, I'll be joining the 'publish or perish' world which brings a whole other dimension of uncertainty.  Scientists are revered as being brainiacs trying to save the world - but they are poorly remunerated with very little job security for the privilege.  So before you think that the road is lined with gold for doctors and scientists alike - the exact opposite is true, particularly for the latter.  

Alongside all of that, obviously the job you are doing at the time must also continue, and science does not always play the game.  My 'science' has been working ... variably.  It is somewhat disheartening when an experiment you have been working on for six weeks appears to not be working.  The number of failed experiments that go into one scientific paper - I think it's probably a 1 in 10 ratio of success to failure.  But when those successes come - oh boy!  So exciting!

State Capitol of California
So having traversed all of that, I am now falling in love with life and the world again having taken myself off to California to continue my 'cultural exchange' and give my little brain a rest.  And boy, the love is flowing; the kindness shown to me by a series of relative strangers is blowing my mind.  My senses are kind of overwhelmed with all the sights, smells and tastes that California is offering me - having meandered through the beautiful Napa Valley, exploring the historic corners of Sacramento and creeping through Big Trees (aka Giant Sequoias) Park, I'm probably going to have go on some sort of diet after sampling buttery Chardonnays and fruity Pinot Noirs, sticky Macarons (the salted caramel - WOW), full-flavoured cheeses, delicious lamb dishes, and even a genuinely good portion of fish and chips... and all under the guidance of incredibly kind new friends.  All good stuff for the soul, and good for reminding you about all the things that are great in the world.  After all, a job is necessary but it is just a job.  The kindness of people is of far greater value and one that I am feeling the full force of at the moment.  
I'll leave you with this: we had a chinese lunch yesterday and this was the contents of my fortune cookie.  I'm not sure I have enough of worth to write a whole book yet - but I am not at all short on ideas!

Friday, 16 January 2015

On Science

My friend Una was an anthropologist as well as a doctor: maybe that's why she could describe why science is so awesome better than I ever could.  As I prepare to switch my clinical brain back on for a medical job interview, this quote is, in a nutshell, why I love that I get to work between the two wonderful worlds of medicine and science.  

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Cancer - just an accident?

Four years ago, when I was doing my science degree in London, I went to my local florist to buy a bouquet of peonies for a departing colleague.  As I was in my fifth year as a student by this point, independent floristry was usually beyond my budget, so I relished the pooled funds that facilitated this acquisition (flowers are probably the one and only luxury item that I get squeaky about - they add so much sparkle).  At the end, the florist insisted on giving me a discount - 'you're doing cancer research - it's so impressive that you're working towards a cure'.  

Even then, I was sceptical.  Now, I am possibly beyond hope of a 'cure', a magic bullet.  And this article hit the headlines recently, and I feel it explains the source of all of those concerns. 

The Beeb reported on a Science paper with the headline 'Most cancer types 'just bad luck''.  In essence, it's an article which showed that 2/3 of cancers are caused by chance mutations, with the remaining (and that's a significant) third being due to lifestyle factors.  I guess I was a little surprised to read this, but on deeper thought, it's actually amazing that the balance is not more in the direction of random bad luck.  When one considers all the cells in the body (thats a few trillion, btw), all replicating at varying rates, some dying and being replaced by new ones, enough to sustain us for a lifetime.  And every time a cell replicates, it's got to make an EXACT copy.  And just like all of us, sometimes there's a mistake.  Some mistakes are harmless.  Others, not so much.  Cells have got a whole bunch of ways to scan for mistakes and erase them.  Cancer is essentially what happens when the mistake IS harmful and something happens which means the corrective system has gone wrong.  

So, there are a whole bunch of 'mistakes' that can happen, and equally there are a lot of steps in the 'identify-to-remove' repair pathway that can go awry.  Kind of amazing, PHENOMENAL, that it doesn't go wrong more often.  Some people are unlucky and inherit a gene which speeds this bad luck up - such as people with a BRCA gene mutation (like Angelina Jolie) who have a greater risk of certain cancers because they have lost part of the safety net.  

But how on earth can you a) know ALL the possible pathways which led to the cancer, b) work out which parts of the pathway went wrong and c) find a way to fix it?  And that's assuming it's one single thing that's bad enough to make cancer happen - what about if it's a team event involving multiple genes, multiple pathways, multiple errors?  

Snow in Connecticut
Clearly I don't think it's all hopeless - otherwise I wouldn't be so passionate about the research I'm doing.  This is ultimately what targeted therapy is all about, but I hope I've painted a picture of why 'curing cancer' is such a big ask.  It's not so much finding a needle in a haystack as throwing a needle into one and hoping it'll find the one green straw you laid in there.  Maybe we just need to change the language we use - rather than wanting a cure, how about 'living with cancer' - so it's not a fatal death sentence?  I was recently asked at an interview what specific area of cancer I was interested in; and it's not by accident that I have sidestepped to brain tumours as a research interest.  Imagine if patients with brain tumours, or pancreatic cancer, or small cell lung cancer, could just live with their disease rather than die from it?  I carry the patients I have cared for with these diseases with me, as a reminder of what we are trying to achieve, and it makes the goal less scary.  

'Cure' just makes me think that everyone is waiting for the single answer to the Cancer Question.  But what the article described above serves us to remember how blimmin' amazing the body is that we survive at all, and therefore what a huge wall cancer has placed before us.  But walls are made of many bricks rather than just the one; so perhaps chipping away and redefining the goal is a more achievable aim?

Perhaps this seems like a heavy post to kick off 2015 with, but as I approach a time of year which will forever be difficult for me and reminds me why I am in America, it is more designed to reiterate how incredible life is at all.  So go do something awesome to launch your New Year.

I'm not sure I could love this more. My latest contribution to quotation tennis, RH!