I recently explored enrolling in a course regarding “the business of cancer.” The course is being offered for the first time this Spring and looks at cancer as a political and economic activity. It’s less about how people experience cancer as an illness, and more so about the kinds of stories that get told about cancer. Unfortunately, as a freshman I am 13 credits short of eligibility for this upper-division course.
I emailed back and forth with the professor offering the course, sharing articles and excitement about the potential of teaching the history of cancer in both a scientific and sociological context. After meeting with the professor today, I learned that the course will be offered again in the Fall, so I will enroll in it next year after having my freshman year under my belt.
It turns out that the professor’s mother has a brain tumor. After the description of “benign” and “not uncommon” was given, I asked if it was a meningioma. Bingo. She said her mother had been treated with radiation because the location was hard to operate on, and we proceeded to discus proton beam radiation as her treatment. If there was a brain tumor quizbowl team in high school not only would I have been captain, I would have been an All-American.
My vocabulary continues to build since surgery. The shrinkage is much more apparent to me now that it has expanded again. Looking back at videos I took predominantly during the first six months after surgery is eye-opening. My brain resorted to using the most basic descriptive words following surgery such as “good,” “great,” “awesome,” etc. instead of recognizing words like “phenomenal,” “encouraging,” or even “exciting” as options. I’ve been writing words in the margins of notebooks and looking them up after class to further expand my vocabulary. It’s incredible how simply hearing a word again brings back the recognition and application.