The essay connects her own cancer diagnosis with the work of scientists that we feature here at Math4Science, and why she believes in the importance of science.
Here are the opening paragraphs:
I’ve been thinking frequently this month about Henrietta, my paternal grandmother. I try to imagine what it felt like to be an American Jew in the mid-1940s, with news coming in about what happened to one’s counterparts in Europe. Henrietta and all but one of my grandparents were born in the United States. But in 1945, at the age of 36, my father’s mother died anyway: of breast cancer. And one by one, her sisters all died of the same disease.
I wonder about that as well. What — if any — treatment did they receive? What killed them: the cancer and its progression? Or the treatment? The times, which brought death sentences to so many people like them?
Henrietta’s daughter — my aunt — and Henrietta’s sister’s daughters all lived well into old age. Most of them lived “cancer-free.” One of them, my father’s cousin Jeanine, did get breast cancer. So did my mother. Her diagnosis came in 2009, just after my step-father died. It hit me and my sisters particularly hard, increasing our sense of the risk of cancer now from both sides of the family. Mom heard the news within days of my return home to Brooklyn after sitting shiva with her in Chicago.
But thanks to advances in science, treatments for breast cancer have improved a great deal. The research of Eugene DeSombre, a biochemist, became part of the reason I did not lose my own mother, as my father had 64 years earlier. And it’s part of the reason I urge you to march for science this Saturday, as well as study science, donate to science, and educate everyone you know about it.