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This I Believe

By , Cincinnati, OH
After my application to be a camp counselor at the YMCA was rejected, those two free months came much sooner than I had expected and left me with no plans for summer break. My dad offered to take me to his laboratory for a few days. Simply put, he didn't want me to stay at home and watch baseball all day like I have for most of my life. A few weeks went by. And because of my inability to plan ahead, it was decided that I would be "given the opportunity to learn about cancer research." For two months I would go to work with my dad: from 8-4, no pay, no volunteer hours, and the only thing keeping me motivated through the entire process being my motivation to learn.

My dad is a cancer biologist at the University of Cincinnati. His lab performs experiments that seek out possible molecular pathways through which prostate cancer can develop. Because the experiments are complex and contain protocols that must be strictly followed, I was not allowed to touch anything for the first three weeks. I would shadow the researches in his lab: taking notes, asking questions, making diagrams so that at some point I would be capable of performing the experiments on my own.

Every day the lab would make some sort of discovery. However, I couldn't help but feel disappointed with each one. Not just because the full understanding of each finding was complex and required an extensive knowledge in biology, something I had yet to attain, but because none of them would lead to a cure for cancer. After each one I would ask my dad the same “stupid question,” to which he would repeatedly reply: no. My dad doesn't think there'll ever be a cure for most cancers, at least not in his lifetime, only a means to prevent them.

Confronted by this newfound, negative-outlook on this disease, my optimism in doing my science fair project on cancer dwindled. I ignored that outlook. Over time, as I carried out the protocols in my dad’s lab over weekends, with his supervision of course, and later, as I presented my research project to people that rated my “knowledge acquired,” I could tell that they felt the same way as my father. As I tried to expand the depth to which my data could be interpreted, I could tell I was relaying information to them through one ear and it was passing through the other.

There is much that needs to be done to combat cancer, either through research or helping those that are affected by this disease. Through my experiences I’ve come to the realization that this battle is much more complex than I had expected. I believe that when faced with a problem so grand, a problem no one has solved, somehow, to some people, maintaining optimism becomes too difficult. Though staying enthusiastic will not alter the outcome, at least it gives hope that at some point, my dad will be proven wrong.





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