Molecular Biology


I don't know about my siblings, but all my life I have keenly felt the absence of my grandmother Mimi - our mother's mother, who passed away at age 56 (right?) after battling breast cancer for 13 years. Oh that my mother may battle her cancer for that long.... Anyway, at a young age I decided that the thing to do would be to grow up and find a cure for cancer. And that's what I told people I wanted to do when I grew up. Then my smart older brother told me that it meant I wanted to be a "molecular biologist". I remember repeating the words, trying to get my mouth around the rather large terms.

I was young - young enough that the course to follow to achieve this goal never entered my thoughts - the sciences, the years of study, etc. By the time it did, my thoughts had gone in a different direction, still linked to my French grandmother - studying French as a way to know her better. It is interesting to me to see how much the one grandparent I've never known in this world has influenced my life.

So much for my childhood dream, though. Talk about missing the boat.


57. You didn't miss the boat; you took a different boat. One that works for both you and Mimi. And will come very in-handy in 2007 when you come with me to the de Seze family reunion. I'll be there; you?

I'll be there.

If you could go back knowing what you know now, would you change boats?

Probably not. It's more about me remembering that it used to be my dream and that it's just . . . a bit coincidental, I guess.

I remember Mimi. Not oddly, I remember her being tall. She was only 4' 11" or so, but I was much shorter then.

She wore glasses just like Mommy does, on a string around her neck.

I remember her in a gold dressing gown, though the color might just be an artifact of memory.

I can only remember two distinct times that I saw her. One was in the Falklands, when she brought me a hat and sweater (Maman, is this true? Did Mimi bring me that hat and sweater?) and she tugged on the tassel on the hat to keep me from running away.

And I remember seeing her in Littlewoods, when she had to rest and I wasn't allowed to go into the bedroom to see her. I was sad, because I had wanted to play, and Mimi was lots of fun.

Maman sent me outside to play with DoreƩ (sp?). He knocked me down. It was fun anyway, though.l

You know, when I was a kid, I wanted to know everything, solve every problem, find immortality, give gifts of solutions to problems previously thought to be intractable - from my massive intellect. I was more arrogant than that statement makes me sound, in fact, but I'm not capable of articulating a statement of egotism that will sufficiently convey how absurdly self-absorbed I was.

Mara had realistic goals.

If it's any consolation, Mara, there are molecular biologists and medical doctors who are, right now, working on a cure for cancer and are pretty darn close to a vaccine for certain common cancers, Mommy's included.

I met a pair of girls from France who had flown into D.C. for an oncology conference. They were post-doc molecular biologists from a school in Paris (I don't remember which one). They were very sweet; they seemed too young to be doctors. One still had braces. They were a bit suspicious at first, but then we got to talkin'.

They're working on a generic procedure that will take cancerous and pre-cancerous cells from the person who has cancer, lyse the cell, feed the bits to a certain kind of cell (I can't remember which one) and the person's body learns that this is an intruder cell.

The interesting thing is that we have mutant cells all the time. You'll be a different person by the time you're done reading this sentence. But these cells are usually "caught" by the immune system. It knows they're bad and kills them. Cancer happens when a cell mutates and our body doesn't catch it.

Well, if we catch it soon enough through other means (a mammogram, for instance) then we now have a way of telling out body that it's bad and letting it do it's job.

It's clever and has a very promising success rate. It's part of the reason I wanted Mommy to consider Johns Hopkins; they have a clinical trial of immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer. But she has her support structure here in Mentor. It's where her friends are; she needed to be here.

Anyway, Sis, you did fine; there are people working on it. This might seem strange, but if there's something I really wanted to do and someone else has done it...well, that's just as good, really? I mean, it's still getting done, isn't it?

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This page contains a single entry by Mara published on December 7, 2005 1:03 PM.

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