by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.
Author’s program note. It is 5:27 a.m. here in Cambridge, where the invention of the future via research is our product, our pride, our unmitigated purpose… a place of assiduous effort, often lonely, frequently inconclusive, a place where the glory lies not just in achieving a goal but in knowing this achievement will be overtaken by others who will thereby advance truth and progress by using the fruit of every prior effort and exertion, just as those following them will advance beyond everything and everyone which came before, no matter how celebrated or useful in its time.
“If I have seen farther,” Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) famously said, “it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” In that single phrase lies the reason why Cambridge and all its myriad educational institutions exists and why we must assist and not diminish them, for their work is vital, necessary, where the collective brain power and untiring effort move us appreciably, minute by minute, to the perfection which should always be our chief human objective and unceasing mission.
Research, improved procedures, improved outcomes, the gift of health, even the gift of life itself.
I am about to undergo a medical procedure called colonoscopy. It is the third time in the last 13 years that my colon has been scrutinized, first by sigmoidoscopy, which is a partial procedure done while the patient is fully conscious, thereby able to see the entire matter first hand; twice by a complete colonoscopy, ten years ago for the first; the second taking place at 7 a.m. tomorrow, just 24 hours from now.
I am therefore at work preparing for this procedure, each aspect the result of teams of physicians and medical researchers who have, bit by bit, improved what is done and the medical skills and tools necessary to achieve the desired result: quality and longevity of the most important thing we each have — life itself.
Since this life is so important, the very basis for our existence on Earth, we must encourage, exhort, sustain and venerate those who advance it, in both length and utility, and we must oppose, adamantly, vigorously, energetically, unfailingly, anyone in any situation who does anything to diminish and destroy it. As the great humanitarian Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) said, “Ehrfurcht vor dem leben”, (“Reverence for life”) must be at the heart of who we are and our every endeavor, particularly of the researches we undertake.
Homage to Madame Curie, (1867-1934), “haunted by dreams, invincibly eager”.
This poetic description of Marie Skodowska-Curie comes from the 1943 MGM film starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon (as her husband Pierre), a film whose world-famous subjects ensured world-wide interest and acclaim. Consider the date of the film. Madame Curie’s native country, the homeland she loved with all the high ardor and profound devotion found in every Pole, was seething under Hitler’s savage rule, his intent nothing less than erasing her land and every person therein.
Her adopted nation, la belle France, writhed under the Nazis, too; abashed, humiliated, mortified by events, mortified more by the collaborators who stained the glory of France with treachery and abiding ignominy.
In such a situation, the powers at MGM, many themselves emigrants from Europe, lucky to be alive, decided to throw down the gauntlet, to tell a tale that would rekindle hope, pride, and purpose in those dark days when the future was anything but halcyon and joyful.
And so Greer Garson, who had transfixed the world with her characterization of Mrs. Miniver (1942), a lady whose innate decency, courage, and grace reminded us what we could do, might have to do in this world at war to inch towards victory and humanity, was tapped to bring Marie Curie, titanic, brilliant, heroic, enduring, tenacious to life. The Nazis had nothing like this, either in film, or more importantly in fact.
The film, of course, awards galore, did what it was supposed to do, not least enthusing multitudes of young people, including a record number of young women, to enter the hard sciences of chemistry, physics, mathematics and all the others once reckoned the sole prerogative of men. Indeed, it is not too much to say that Marie Curie was the godmother of generations of women scientists who thrilled to her message, her serious intent, and the good work she did, the discoveries she made, the lives she changed for the better, without giving up her femininity, spouse, or family. It was an electrifying message for millions. It remains supremely relevant today and is still by no means universally accepted.
It is now time to introduce you to the music for this article, the most apt sound imaginable: the score to “Madame Currie”. Composed by master Herbert Stothart, probably best known for writing “The Wizard of Oz” in 1939, the music that edged out “Tara’s Theme” in “Gone with the Wind”, arguably the best known movie theme ever written, for the Oscar. He had his work cut out for him for he needed a sound that was as beautiful as the science Madame Curie venerated and served, a pristine acolyte at the forge of truth and knowledge. Go to any search engine now and let the soaring sound by a composer of renown lift you… just as science and unending research lift our species… if we will but let them. Sadly, alarmingly these are now very much at risk. The little men and women of the Capitol are seeing to that, to the general desuetude and disillusion.
The fatal axe called “sequestration”, the despair of scientists and researchers, their important work for the Great Republic and every citizen at risk; the risk that comes when the scientific progress we all have the right to expect is curtailed by our own failure to act and so nurture and sustain it.
It is well known that the federal government needs $1 trillion in budget cuts. What is far less well known is the devastation, the destruction, the ruination this will cause the scientific and research communities. Listen then to Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, who called 2013 the “darkest ever” year for the agency, whose budget is at its lowest inflation-adjusted appropriations level in more than a decade with all that means for scientists laid off, scientists (including the vital supply of young researchers) not hired, bold projects unstarted, bold projects left undone, the nation at terrible risk.
Here are remarks by Steven Salzberg, the director of the Center for Computational Biology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a well respected biomedical researcher. “Less science is getting done,” he said. “That means cures won’t emerge. Five years from now, when your aunt gets cancer and you can’t do anything for her, people won’t stop and think, ‘Jesus, if we only hadn’t had the sequester!'” Does this make any sense at all, or are we so far gone as a nation that we simply cannot be bothered to save the science and research which have the potential to save us all? Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be?
Colyte, all through the night.
While the politicians diddle, dawdle and duck the tough decisions, their irresolution, cowardice and indecision thereby clouding our collective future, life goes on, not perhaps as good as it could be, but definitely better than it will be, if the sciences and their researchers are so dismissed, devalued, disdained. And so I follow the procedural guidelines to the very letter, afraid that any departure will obscure the result, perhaps resulting in the tragedy I most wish to avoid.
The Day Of Your Test.
4-6 hours before your arrival time.
1) Drink one 8-ounce glass of Colyte every 10-15 minutes until the remaining half of the Colyte is gone. You may have to get up in the night to take this dose. You need to do this for a good preparation.
2) Immediately after drink 2 to 3 8 ounce glasses of Gatorade (preferred) or any clear liquid.
3) Continue to drink clear liquids until 3 hours before your scheduled arrive time. Do not eat any solid food.
4) Do not drink anything, including water, for 3 hours before your arrival time.
And then it was time to leave, on a voyage discovering myself, hopeful but understandably nervous notwithstanding. I must have looked pale and wan for when I got out of the car, my driver Aime Joseph hugged me and said “Courage, mon ami,” something he had never done before.
Then, promptly, efficiently, professionally my Endoscopy Center team went to work. Receptionist Louise, perky and soothing at 6:30 a.m. Followed by Jack, the first nurse, friendly, focused, a man of ease putting me at mine. Then nurses Kathryn and Pat, smiling, reassuring, glad they said to have a patient as well prepared as I was, thereby assuring my regard and gratitude; finally, Dr. Lopes, brisk, amicable, explaining all as we went, master of his craft and of practiced patient care; the physician who gave me the news, all good, no cancer, no growth, no troubling polyps, good to go for another decade and a day. That’s good for me, of course, but with the sequester and further cuts, will you get care as good, thorough, and prompt? It matters.
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world, but it is more common in developed countries. It is estimated that worldwide in 2008, 1.23 million new cases were clinically diagnosed and that it killed at least 608,000 people. Do what’s necessary to make sure you aren’t one of them.
If you are a reader 50 and above, call your physician today and schedule your colonoscopy and while you’re at it, give this article to a friend. It’s an act of love.
Howard Martell is the Owner of http://HomeProfitCoach.com/silver . Check us out anytime for marketing tips and a free subscription to our cutting edge newsletter.