Every family has its histrionic stories that shape the next generation. In my family’s tales, there are nuns who fled the church chasing romantic love, traveling folk singers, hippies who defied their parents by living in caves in Jerome, Ariz., and grandfathers who invited priests over to bless the bowl of holy water in the hallway.
But an overwhelming number of my stories are shaped by absence. And the main culprit is always cancer. As the No. 2 killer in the U.S., cancer impacts many families, making professor Tin Tin Su’s development of a drug screening process to treat cancer extraordinarily relevant [pages 36-39].
Su’s research can’t undo the past. My uncle Tom dropped Agent Orange in Vietnam only to die at home of melanoma when he was 34, leaving behind three children. My grandfather died three months later. Grief from losing his eldest son filled his heart until one day it got too heavy and stopped. Several years later, cancer killed my 62-year-old grandma before wiping out my uncle Dann when he was 47, a beaming father of two little boys.
But maybe the future holds a different story. Two weeks ago, a biopsy of mine came back abnormal but not cancerous. I was relieved, which gives you an idea of how low the bar is in our family. My hope is one day Su’s work will revolutionize our health care and, perhaps, transform our own family narratives in ways we never imagined possible.