(Photo of Early-Career Investigators from left to right: Kara A. Bernstein, PhD; Major K. Lee, IV, MD, PhD; Christine M. Lovly, MD, PhD; Paul A. Northcott, PhD; Jose G. Trevino, II, MD)
My 9 year old daughter and 11 year old son give me thumbs up or down when I have to miss an activity in their extremely busy pre-double digits and preteen lives. They know “mommy works in cancer” and are forgiving if my advocacy conflicts with their schedules. And, I get thumbs up from both for missing today’s summer afternoon activities as I attended the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Congressional Briefing on “Seizing Today’s Opportunities to Accelerate Cancer Research: An Update on the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative and a Dialogue with Early Career Investigators”.
Working in cancer can foster a range of emotions as you see advocates succumb to disease or promising treatments fail to achieve their intended results. But, the best days are those that highlight advances as well as showcase the current and future generation of researchers and clinicians who’ve dedicated themselves to answering the unanswered questions about the many diseases that are cancer and are searching for more ways to: prevent cancer; expand screening options; increase survival; and ultimately eradicate cancer.
I was beyond impressed with their passion and dedication to not only treating patients, but also educating their patients and being visible in the communities that they serve. They addressed a variety of topics that impact the current and future standard of care including:
- NIH funding
- National Cancer Moonshot Initiative
- Precision Medicine Initiative
- Health Equity
- Clinical trials diversity
- Biology of tumors
There was also an encouraging discussion on pediatric cancer. Beyond discussing these issues, the researchers’ and clinicians’ dedication was palpable.
Their research is so important to me, having lost my young mother, aunt and many young cousins to cancer. When I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2008, I asked God to let me survive to watch my kids grow up. I appreciate every opportunity to be with them, but also appreciate their understanding of those times when our schedules conflict and I have to miss an activity because of my commitment to working in cancer. I’m thankful for their thumbs up today. I left the briefing enthusiastic, reenergized and also hopeful. I’m hopeful that the work that these researchers do will allow my kids, despite hereditary cancer in our family, to have a cancer-free future.
I’m off to play with my kids. Today was a great day.
Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor. Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate. Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.