In 2011 one of my favorite books was The emperor of all maladies: a biography of cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It’s a fascinating read, especially in light of my mother’s battle with cancer.
Mukherjee‘s broad treatment of the history of cancer includes a few chapters of scientist Sidney Farber, who championed the research of the use of chemicals to treat cancer, especially leukemia. The use of chemicals, now referred to as chemotherapy, was unheard of in the 1940s. In 1948 Farber published a paper which described his use of chemicals to treat leukemia. His paper was received by the medical world “with skepticism, disbelief, and outrage.”
I write this not as a book review. I don’t review books. I write this because Farber was a practitioner who believed in his work with every fiber in his body. With the publication of his findings, Farber ….”was throwing down a gauntlet for cancer medicine. It was then up to an entire generation of doctors and scientist to pick it up.”
He was one brave and very determined man. It’s not hard to imagine the sneers and jeers he must have received. He not only stood up to doctors and scientists (they can be a feisty bunch), but he challenged everyone with his amazing discovery.
His determination and strength impress me. As a school librarian, I have to push ahead with strength and determination…in spite of the resistance and nasty back-stabbing I get at my job. I’m not sure what next year’s budget axe will bring. I might not even have a job. But you know what? I’m going to do my best to remember Farber’s willpower and fearless determination in the new year. Regardless of your occupation, I hope you will too.
PS If you haven’t read The emperor of all maladies: a biography of cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee and you are considering it, I recommend you download it as an eBook. It’s a big heavy book.