A couple of weeks ago, I wrote "These connections seemed to reach out to me reminding me of a common experience that I’m quick to overlook (connections, referring to memories and emotions that connect me to friends and strangers who also have had a serious cancer diagnosis) . Cancer is intrinsically an experience with uncertainty and everyone who has had cancer is confronted with that uncertainty."
I've be quite restless since having the realization that, I do have a common experience and that I desperately want to be doing something positive about it.
Two incredible opportunities have come up in the last couple of weeks:
1. I will represent LiveStrong, at a grassroots level, and go to the children's oncology floor at our local hospital to talk with them about how they're doing, living with cancer, exercise, bicycles, and bicycle racing. I'll bring a couple of bikes with me including the new dual-suspension 29er mountain bike (pictures soon). I'm also trying to talk with some local bike people to see if they'd be interested in lending me a demo bike (preferably a light, race-ready road bike). If the day goes well, then I plan on (a) making it a regular event and (b) doing the same thing at hospitals in St Louis and Kansas City.
2. Med school will continue next August! In the meantime, I have an incredible research project. I'll look at a specific protein called lipocalin 2 or LCN2, which has been shown to be involved in a bunch of different processes including (I'll try and make this stuff as simple as possible, let me know if you're following):
-the ability of certain tumors to metastasize (when looking at different cancers, some seem to be populated by cells which have the ability to leave their original location in order to travel to a different site in the body and nestle themselves in that distant site).
-In order for cancer cells from a particular tissue, say for example, breast tissue, to leave their original location, they need to turn on a set of genes which transforms the cell into a more primitive and mobile entity. Way back in our momma's womb, when our tissues were organizing, cells went from primitive and mobile to 'differentiated' organs. The protein I'm looking at seems to be involved in the reverse process, 'differentiated' to primitive and mobile.
-The ability of some cancer cells to make room for themselves by digging holes in normal tissue and killing normal, non-cancerous cells.
There's a couple of important aspects of this protein, including the fact that its levels in the pee of people with nasty, aggressive cancers is higher than those with more 'well-behaved' cancers. We can also look at biopsy tissue to see if the protein is over-expressed and therefore have an idea of the patient currently has, or may develop, metastatic disease. And lastly, researchers and drug companies can develop therapies which target this protein and in theory, decrease the ability of cancer cells to pick-up and move to distant tissues.