Several people I know and love are going through cancer right now, and I am sending all of them all the love and hope that I can their way. Some are facing chemo, some radiation, and some are doing alternative therapy. All are worried, scared, and hoping the treatment does its work.
32 years ago, I too went through cancer and chemotherapy. I was young and living in Denmark (which has a fantastic socialized medicine system - it works so well, I wish that the U.S. would take it as a model - but that is a topic for another post). I was lucky and ended up in the hospital that just happened to have the world's leading research expert on my rare form of cancer.
Because I was in Denmark I was fortunate enough to receive the chemotherapy approved in that country. It was stronger than the chemo that was approved in the US at the time. After 8 long months of chemo, which isn't fun, I was in remission. And I've been in remission ever since. Chemotherapy is not a picnic, it is debilitating and horrible. I was so worn out at the end of chemo I swore I would not do it again. But that was the arrogance of youth and the tiredness of spirit talking. As hard as chemo is, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Because I have had 32 wonderful years as a result of that chemo, and I am looking forward to many more.
About 10 years ago when I was studying biochemistry, we had a talk from a biochemist at a pharmaceutical company. He was telling us about careers in the pharmaceutical industry, and he related a story about his first day on the job. He started with the company when he was 35 and on the same day someone was retiring who had been there 35 years. He said to the man "you've worked here as long as I've been alive, you must have seen a lot of changes. What is your biggest success?" And the man told him "In the 35 years I've worked here, not one thing I've worked on has ever come to market" That's how much R&D goes into drug making. People can work their whole careers and never come up with a marketable drug. But their research can inform other research that does eventually make it to market and makes people's lives better. And that was the case with this speaker who was speaking to our biochemistry class. Because he worked on two chemotherapy drugs that saved my life and have saved millions of lives I bet. Those drugs are still part of the front line of chemotherapy even today. After the talk, I got a chance to personally thank this man who saved my life, and, as I was wiping tears away, he told me that every time he gives the talk, at least one person comes up to him to say the same thing.
Now that my friends and family are facing cancer, chemotherapy, and all of the scary aspects of that, I am reminded again how grateful I am for modern medicine, smart scientists, those who labor for 35 years to build foundations for others, and, yes, especially that horrible chemotherapy.
Here's hoping that you and yours are enjoying health and happiness!