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The big C

I just returned from a Labor Day holiday trip to Chicago for a cousin's wedding. It was a wonderful weekend with extended family sprinkled in with old friends from high school, college and grad school. But yet (and perhaps this is an inevitable part of life when you get older), I couldn't escape the cloud of cancer.

First, it was seeing my young nieces who lost both of their parents to cancer far too early in all of their lives. Later in the weekend cancer was lingering again, this time in more triumphant ways with my friends Claudia and Sandy, both in remission, who told me at separate dinners about their battles back from the abyss.

I guess my weekend may have not been all that unique as cancer is inescapable for most of us. We all know somone who's been touched by the Big C. I can count too easily the many people in my life who have been in the grip of its ravages.

When my brother was dying - he was 48 years old when he passed away - we had many late night phone calls during which he would rail in anger at all that he would miss. The pain was especially searing to me when he would focus on his young girls - then in high school - and talk about missing their high school and college graduations and eventually, perhaps, missing out on walking them down the aisle at their weddings. I will never forget those conversations and I am thankful for the raw emotions he was able to release. I haven't walked either of them down the aisle in his place yet but I can say that both of his girls have done quite well in the past eleven years. Both are college graduates and well on their way to living interesting lives with budding careers. My brother asked me before he died if his life was important. Did it have meaning? Well, Bill, I can report from the weekend that it did, and that you and Barbara did well.

I couldn't think of any other way of introducing my latest 1:2:1 podcast with Beverly Mitchell, MD, except by being personal about how cancer has impacted my life. I've wanted to talk to Mitchell, who directs Stanford's Cancer Center, for some time now about cancer from its most basic definition to its most complex form. During the interview, Mitchell talks about the difficulty of getting participants to volunteer for clinical trials and how this is hurting the discovery of new treatments for cancer. She talks about the significance of coming to a place like Stanford for treatment and the advantages of the bench-to-bedside approach of translational medicine along with basic science. You'll also hear her talk about how she thinks that the popular press give short-shrift to the advances in treatment and often miss the triumphs over the tragedies.

I hope you'll come away from this discussion knowing something deeper about the disease and why it's so tricky to treat and so vexing to cure.

And to my friends and loved ones who have or have had cancer, I salute you. You're really my heroes.

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