The human brain has this funny old habit of creating “us” and “them”. It is easier for our understanding and emotional stability if we believe that another group is markedly different to us; yano, celebrities are completely different to me and therefore I can hold them up to unrealistic heights, or write mean things on the Internet about them, that we would never dreeeeaaam of saying to a friend or colleague.
But the closer you look, or the more you learn, the unnerving reality becomes clear: we’re all just figure-it-out-as-we-go-along humans. Right okay, what are you blabbering about, what has this got to do with cancer? Because I come across this “us” and “them” attitude in relation to cancer research all the time, and I think it can be really dangerous. Believing “they”, “will figure it out”, so donate some money to “them” once in a while, and forget about it, get on with your life. But hold on. How close are “they” to a cure for cancer? What does that money you raised pay for? What do they do??
I’m here to burst that bubble. I’m them. And I’m you. And its time to open up a conversation.
I am a scientist, a cancer biologist. I grow cancer cells taken from patients and test ways to kill them. I’m working towards my PhD at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, (the university that awards the Nobel prize in medicine every year – one can dream, eh?). But, I’m also a twenty-something small town Irish girl, who is useless at mornings and struggles to get to the end of the month on her paycheque. I’m human, and I’m more like you than you realise. And my colleagues, as wonderful and inspiring as they all are, are all humans too. We don’t have secret powers or infinite knowledge or even fool proof ideas. I am not a far off professor in a dark dusty lab with an oversized brain and electrocuted style hair (well, not always, seriously – mornings, ugh.). We’re just trying to figure this old thing out.
Here’s my plea – Join me. You are your best anti-cancer researcher. Not me. You. Sat there with your cup of tea and a biscuit. Not me, sat in the lab in my white coat. (Possibly also with a tea and biscuit. Science is hard, leave me alone.) Without a doubt the best weapon we have right now is you. Prevention and early detection. Help us to help you. Get on board! Be cancer aware in your life.
Educate yourself. Do not stick you head in the sand about this. Protect your skin, (sunbeds are evil, you are BEAUTIFUL pale, trust me. I’m Irish, I have to say that), get available vaccines, go to screenings, preform self-examinations, learn the signs. You are not infallible, you are human. Eat healthy, move, read, learn, blog, share, start the conversation!
I’m going to use this blog to discuss both my research, and the wider cancer research field, and sometimes medical research in other fields that I find and think you will find interesting or useful. I’ll also try to disect cancer or science related articles that present themselves in the media, and I’m always open to suggestions or questions, if I can be of help. Join in the conversation, imagine the power of 7 billion cancer researchers!
You don’t have to wear the white coat. Unless you want to 🙂
Your new cancer researcher friend,