Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fractal Patterns

For those of you who didn't know, when i was just a wee one, I was quite the math and science prodigy. I was so far ahead in math in high school, they had to make an independent study for me. One where the teacher admitted I was smarter than her. That was the last day I paid attention to a word she said. I was a state science fair champ for like 6 years. My 6 years of work on fractal patterns caused a judge to ask if I was going to be a mathematician or perhaps go into science. I laughed.

Nope, going into theater school. Never to take math or science again. Except "the solar system" and biology for football players. Those don't count.

So many years later, after numerous career paths that never once included math or science, (unless you count calculating 20% interest rates on a used car) I find myself drawn to the science of breast cancer. In fact, I joke that I have an internet oncology degree. When I was diagnosed I spent hours on the web, researching everything I could find. After I finished treatment, I realized I only truly understood MY breast cancer. I was woefully uneducated in the other different types. How could I guide someone else if I didn't understand? How could I help them read their pathology reports, their treatment plans - anything?

So little by little, I researched. I learned about side effects, drugs, treatments, genetic tests - hell, I can even tell you the generic name of most chemo drugs. For any woman going through treatment, I could probably rattle off at least a couple clinical trials they could enroll in. And you know what? I found I really liked it. I don't know if it's that whole right/left brain thing or what. Or if I was so used to people coming back from the dead or some love triangle that it was refreshing to flex my cranial muscles.

So, the pinnacle of science nerdom, the epicenter of all things breast cancer is the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, held every year in - you guessed it - the alamo city. Now, when I think of the Alamo, I think of Pee Wee's Big Adventure, or perhaps William Shattner in Miss Congeniality - but off I went on another trip to Texas for breast cancer.

It was like the ultimate science fair. It's the largest event for doctors, researchers, clinicians - really anyone that does anything with the big BC. 8000 professionals... yes, that's thousand. From all over the world. And only about 150 advocates. That's me. Every 15 minutes a new paper was presented, a new study discussed. Every 15 minutes from 8am-6pm. Then there's the mentor sessions where docs help us common folk understand the findings. Don't forget the working lunches, the symposium dinners, the stroll through drug company lane... all in all, it was breast cancer all day, all the time. For 4 straight days. It was exhausting. And exhilarating. I learned so much. And I was amazed at what I understood.

And the swag! If you want a mousepad, flashdrive, travel blanket, laser pointer... I have one for you. With the obligatory drug company logo, of course. That doesn't even count the pens, post its - you know, "lesser" gifts. All that money... it makes your head spin.

So I came home from San Antonio with a greater knowledge of breast cancer and a even greater desire to learn more.

But seriously, I could wow you with my work on fractal patterns and chaos theory :)

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