By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Advances in science and the 'Big C'

Wick's World

 


Last week I left the Mayo Clinic with a brand new set of hearing aids. Next on my "bionic" list was a pair of glasses. I was already deeply appreciating the wonders of science as I settled into the chair that held a large binocular-looking device. The machine looked more modern but the optometrist’s spiel hadn’t changed over the decades. He asked the same question put to me when I got my first set of eyeglasses way back in 1956.

I remember the day quite well. I was a 9-year-old who was still thinking about Donald Larson of the New York Yankees and the perfect game he pitched against my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series just the day before my eye appointment.

I listened to the same question still being repeated today by the eye-testers of the world, “Does this one look better, or this one?”

The usual three answers hadn’t changed a whole lot over the years, either.

I would either reply, “This one,” “The first one,” or the answer he didn’t want to hear, “They look the same.”

I picked out some frames, signed a couple forms and my eyeglasses were on their way.

The following day I trucked on over to the sleeping-supply store and picked up my brand new, drastically improved CPAP machine. It was hard to believe I already had logged five years on the old machine that kept me breathing at night. It had buttons missing, a hose that worked periodically, if at all, and Velcro straps that had long since been worn out, assuring I would have a leaky mask for at least part of the night.

As I went to bed that evening, I first had to remember to remove my hearing aids. They were unnecessary as people seldom spoke in my dreams anyway. Then I got to test my new glasses, which allowed me to read a chapter or two before falling asleep with my new seal-tight mask. Maybe I would dream about all the new pieces that were making me a modern version of a bionic old man.

I was appreciating science even more after watching CBS’s “60 Minutes.” I watched the "NCAA Basketball Journey to the Final Four," but I was more anxious and excited about the next show. A really stirring program on “60 Minutes” would feature a segment about “A New Cure for Cancer!”

For my generation, cancer, referred to as the "Big C," was the dreaded disease we all wished to avoid in our lifetimes. My grandma died from it when she was in her relatively young 60s. My mother had cancer while still in her 50s. Everyone knew of some family member or friend who had stared down the disease —some survived, many didn’t.

Last night, I sat spellbound in front of the television as I watched this incredible story about the new possibility that a vaccine was found that had very promising hopes of curing all kinds of cancers, including lung, breast, liver, pancreatic and many others.

The most stunning part of the show was when it was revealed the science behind the discovery of the new cancer vaccine followed a trail that led back to polio. Was it possible that the polio virus could actually be the agent that came back into our world to cure cancer?

Sixty years ago we would have said, “Impossible! That’s crazy! Are you kidding me?”

Last night as my generation got to watch several people who had their cancers cured by the polio virus, I could hear the shouts echoing across the land, “Impossible! That’s crazy! Are you kidding me?”

The verdict is still not in as to whether we have our long-awaited magical cure for cancer or not. The testing included several failures where the outcome was death. Currently, for many in our country, scientists are not considered to be a highly respected profession. Half of our politicians give science no credence at all. Maybe finding a cure for cancer will give the respect and recognition scientists deserve as the predictors and solvers of our future.

 

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