If we keep working, we may ban the 'Emperor' once and for all

January 27, 2011|By LLOYD "PETE" WATERS

While shopping at Borders recently, I came across a book entitled, "The Emperor of all Maladies." As I glanced through its pages, I soon discovered it was a book about cancer and I decided to buy it.

As I read the first few chapters, I soon agreed with the author that cancer, indeed, was the "Emperor of all Maladies." It's a horrific disease that seeks its own survival through an uncontrolled growth of cells — a normal cell gone berserk.

When the Emperor comes to visit, the attacking cells relentlessly destroy the good cells in our bodies and multiply at a rapid rate, causing pain and misery for his victim, and worry and grief for the victim's family.

In America this year some 600,000 Americans will die from cancer. Worldwide, the Emperor will kill another 7 million people.

The author, Siddhartha Mukherjee, is an oncologist, or one in the medical profession, who studies, diagnoses and treats cancerous tumors.  He calls his book a "biography of cancer."

The book represents a fascinating discussion of cancer, and the many trials of people down through the years who have attempted to find a treatment or cure for cancer.  

Real-life examples of doctors and patients with cancer are interwoven throughout the pages of the book.

The author tells us that the first case of cancer was probably recorded around 2500 BC.

Each of us knows someone who has confronted the disease.

My grandmother Gen was a little Irish lady who had a fondness for smoking cigarettes. She even had one of those old cigarette rollers where you would take the loose bugler tobacco and roll it into a paper and form a cigarette.

I remember she even taught me how to roll the homemade cigarettes for her while using the small bugler roller.  

Although I never smoked myself, most of the people in our community and many of my friends did smoke. Many still do.

Some of those same folks have received visits from the Emperor.

My grandmother didn't smoke as many cigarettes as some, but she could not quit the habit.

Before too long the cigarette makers would openly admit to the dangers and hazards of smoking.

Cancer scientists would also discover that the carcinogens contained in cigarette smoke were a contributing factor to the development of the disease.

There are some 50 known carcinogens contained in cigarette smoke.

In 1953, the average adult American smoked some 3,500 cigarettes a year or about 10 per day.

Because of her smoking, my grandmother also invited the Emperor to visit our home.

As I continued my reading, the author presented an historical study of cancer.  

He discussed the early research in identifying the disease and the hopes and strategies for finding a treatment.

The search for a cure and ways to attack the different types of cancers were reviewed in great detail.

Some very interesting and committed people have advanced the treatment of cancer and that research continues today.

Sidney Farber was an early pioneer of chemotherapy.  His many trials and errors in regard to using chemicals to treat cancers, especially leukemia, have had a profound impact on cancer treatments.

William Halstead, a surgeon, thought that cancer could be best eradicated by surgical removal of the tumor(s) and introduced the radical mastectomy procedure. His techniques have been further refined by others with less intrusive methods.

The use of radioactivity and the sacrifices made by Pierre and Marie Curie represent further individual sacrifices which promoted other cancer treatments.

Since President Nixon first declared War on Cancer in the early '70s, we have been hoping to discover yet better treatments and possibly a cure for cancer.

It has been a most difficult war.

My grandmother died on February 5, 1977, from lung cancer, and I can still vividly remember that day the Emperor came to visit our home.

I hope one day soon we can defeat him, so he doesn't come back.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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