May 26, 2011

Cancer, Determination, and Librarianship

Lately I’ve been reading The emperor of all maladies: a biography of cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It’s been a fascinating read, especially in light of my mother’s current battle with cancer.
Mukherjee‘s broad treatment of the history of cancer includes a few chapters of Sidney Farber, who championed the research of the use of chemicals to treat cancer, especially leukemia. The use of chemicals, now referred to as chemotherapy, was unheard of in the 1940s. In 1948 Farber published a paper which described his use of chemicals to treat leukemia. His paper was received by the medical world “with skepticism, disbelief, and outrage.”

I write this blog post not as a book review. I don’t review books. I'm writing this post because Farber was a practitioner who believed in his work with every fiber in his body. With the publication of his findings, Farber …."was throwing down a gauntlet for cancer medicine. It was then up to an entire generation of doctors and scientist to pick it up.”

He was one brave and very determined man. It’s not hard to imagine the sneers and jeers he must have received. He not only stood up to doctors and scientists (they can be a feisty lot), but he challenged everyone with his amazing discovery.

His determination and strength impress me enough to post on my dusty blog. As school librarians, we have to push ahead with strength and determination…in spite of some teachers’ eye-rolling and resistance.

I’m not sure what next year’s budget axe will bring. I might not even have a job.

But I’m going to do my best to remember Farber’s willpower in the coming months. And if do still have a school librarian position next year, I’m going to remember Farber’s fearless determination. I hope you will too.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.


Brian Miller said...

sounds like a rather inspiring book...thanks for the heads up on it...and hope you are doing ok..

Baino said...

Hi Toots. So sorry to hear about your mum's decline and yet another cancelled trip. Such a shame but you have to do what you have to do. I can't believe the 'axing' in education over there, clearly your system is very different to ours. I know of another young teacher who just lost her job but she was a casual (contract). I just hope she picks something else up soon. Same for you. It's no fun being made redundant. Trust me . . I'm there right now.

Ms. Picard said...

Thanks for recommending this book, currently somewhere in the middle of my reading list. I remember so well when my mother was in her downward spiral of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, and the psperwork was in process for her bypass surgery, a nurse at her doctor's office told me, "At least we have something we can offer her. Look at our waiting room, we have so many cancer patients and there's nothing we can do for them. It was 1988, though it seems like yesterday.