When a gut feeling gets science behind it

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I had this mental image of an invading army of cancer cells, careening around my bloodstream, looking for a new place to set up shop. I thought a lot about stories I’ve done about invasive species. I also kept flashing on an old New Yorker showing a globe with arms and legs, sitting on an exam table with a thermometer in its mouth. The doctor standing nearby says, “You’ve got humans!”

I can’t find that New Yorker cartoon, but apparently the “You’ve got humans!” line has done its own bit of metastasis, finding its way onto YouTubeand into the posts of numerous blogs. It’s even a thread in the new TV show, Terra Nova, about humans setting up shop on a new planet.

Now, this week, comes a scholarly paper that shows how a mathematical model of competition between invasive species can be used to show how prostate cancer cells invade bone.

Turns out that my gut feelings may be actually scientific: I am my body. And my body is an ecosystem. Cool.


About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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