As mentioned, went to the Celebrating 60 Years of Hematology in Ottawa symposium this week. The growth in the Hematology program, while impressive, is a reminder of how blood cancer rates have depressingly grown over the last 60 years.
The presentations provided some good overviews on research and treatment, with the focus being on:
- Use of new drugs: e.g., Brentuximab for anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) and Hodgkin lymphoma (approved in US, approval in Canada pending), trials of Everolimus for breast cancer, gastric cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma and lymphoma, and trials of Bendamustine-R as a lower side-effect treatment for follicular NHL.
- New ways to diagnose, including greater use of PET scans in treatment planning
- New ways to deliver drugs (e.g., greater targeting, see A New Class of Cancer Drugs May Be Less Toxic)
- New understanding of cell mechanisms and cancer
In chatting with one of my hematologists, he mentioned that when some 20 years ago he indicated his wish to specialize in blood and marrow transplants, his advisers said it was a dead-end, as leukaemia and lymphoma would be cured by taking pills, and there would be nothing left to research. Smiling, and not having lost his enthusiasm, he said ‘we are still learning’, but that he hoped that, 10-15 years from now, we could look back at transplants and think of it as a ‘barbaric’ treatment.
He also recommended the book How Doctors Think (good summary here), noting, as in Thinking, Fast and Slow, doctors are captive to patterns of thinking, and that mistakes leave such a strong impression that in their commitment not to repeat them, they can sometimes miss other aspects. Another book for my reading list.
It felt a bit like a class reunion, seeing most of the members of my medical team (doctors, nurses, pharmacists etc) that cared for me during the past few years. A number of them remarked how gratifying it is to them when they see people like me come back, not for treatment, and looking well (not to mention gratifying to me!). And another reminder of how the time has passed: one of the pharmacists who helped me through the transplant process is expecting her first child, due the same date as my transplant in August. From life to life.
I finished reading Deep Cultural Diversity: A Governance Challenge. A frustrating book. Parts approach a rant in substance and tone: “fundamentalism of entitlements”, “idolatry of rights”, and “despotism of political correctness”, assertions about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with minimal discussion of the actual jurisprudence, discussion of the need for moral codes without much detail on the contents etc.
And after all that, part of his conclusion is nuanced:
The more timid and gradualist Canadian way is not necessarily an inferior strategy [compared to Australia], since it fits the Canadian ethos. However, it entails a complex and somewhat erratic process of social learning, where progress comes most of the time by fits and starts, locally, and by trail and error, rather than as a result of broadly debated revolutionary transformation. This often means that social learning is fractured and slower ….
However frustrating and ineffective the Canadian way may appear by radical standards, it is not only efficient … but…. may even constitute a truly attractive strategy for polyethnic, multicultural, and plural societies in general ….
Or maybe with my chemo brain, I have less ability to appreciate complex academic reasoning!
Some good stats this month. Interestingly, more new people seem to be discovering the blog, given the number of hits on About, Health, Lessons, Faith and Duality (Terms hasn’t made it yet – may be the word doesn’t resonate with people). Apart from these and the Home page, the top posts of interest are:
- Progress Report on a Decluttering Project – NYTimes.com
- Life, Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad (individual posts taken together)
- Gretchen Reynolds on ‘The First 20 Minutes’ – NYTimes.com
- Jenni Murray: Robin Gibb didn’t lose any ‘battle’ – The Independent
- The Bilingual Brain Is Sharper and More Focused, Study Says – Health Blog – WSJ
And another light film, by Lebanese director Nadine Labaki (she also directed Caramel), approaching black comedy in parts, Where Do We Go Now?, about the quirky efforts of the women in an isolated village of Christians and Muslims to keep the peace. The comedy is heavy-handed at times, some of the plot twists and turns defy credibility, but yet there is a warm humanity and charm that I enjoyed, not to mention a fun kitchen musical number.
More of my usual routine this week although I am going to the local Lymphoma Support Group, largely to see if some of my experience can be helpful to people earlier on in the process. And just got back from another wonderful morning bike ride – one of those daily routines that make a difference.
So on this day of the Diamond Jubilee, good opportunity to reflect back on how the world and society have changed over the past 60 years, largely for the better, and what has remained constant in terms of the importance of family and friends.