What Causes Cancer on A Cellular Level?


Read letter to dad, Then, consider the following prompts:
What causes cancer on a cellular level? How can cancer be considered many diseases, rather than just one?
What are risk factors, and how are they different from causes of cancer? What are some treatments available, and how do they work?
Why can’t we vaccinate to prevent most cancers? Why has it been impossible to “cure” cancer?

Letter to dad

Dear Jen,

It was great to see you, and I wish you could have spent more time visiting before you had to fly home. I would have liked to see Josh one more time, but I understand the limitations on traveling with a very active preschooler. When he is older, please share my story with him.

I was the oldest of four children, born in the 1940s, with a father who did not serve in WWII.

He worked for the phone company, but died while I was a freshman in college. I flew from Coloradoback to New Jersey for his funeral, and did not fly again for fifty years because it frightened me so much. He passed away from a heart attack while battling lung cancer. Even though both of my parents were lifelong smokers, I never took up the habit.

College also led me to your mother, and marriage, and eventually to you and your brother. Eventually I found my niche working as a building inspector in New Jersey. I divorced and remarried. We found square dancing to be rewarding. I had a few health scares with heart attacks and developing diabetesmellitus. After many years of work, I accepted an early retirement from the town and relocated to Florida.

About two years ago, my wife found a small lump on my back that would not heal. I took your advice and went to the doctor, who removed the mass and sent it off to be examined under a microscope.

The results came back as malignant melanoma. I was scared. I went in for surgery, where they removed the mass, as well as gave me a dye study so they couldremove a lymph node. After checking for signs of cancer at the edges of the incision, as well as in the lymph node, they pronounced that they thought they had gotten all of the cancer cells. It took me almost nine months to heal from the incision and for the swelling by my right armpit to go away. But heal I did, and Linda and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary on a cruise with her favorite singer.

January of this year I went to the oncologist, who looked me over and declared that I could doublethe months between visits from three to six. He couldn’t find any signs of returning tumors.

In February, I had a stroke. I was working on a nut on my RV, and it was stuck. I noticed some loss of sensation in my right arm, and I wasn’t able to grip the tool correctly. I was taken to the hospital for treatment, and ultimately set up with physical therapy for my right arm. They did an angiogram, finding no blockages or leakages in the blood vessels of the brain, which confused the doctors.

I then had another stroke, and began to suffer from seizures.In June, it was decided to do an exploratory surgery. A small hole was drilled in my skull on the left side, near the top of my head. A camera was inserted, and the doctors found a dark mass in my brain. The melanoma had spread. This was causing the symptoms for both the loss of function and the seizures. They removed some of it, but were not able to remove all of the tissue.

You brought me flowers for Independence Day, but neither of us was able to go out and see fireworks. You noticed that my right arm was useless, and that it hurt to move my shoulder. Istill tried to crack jokes, and you tried not to cry.

We talked a bit about my father, who you never met, but not too much about your mother. I told you how Linda lamented that I would not see my 73rd birthday. I always thought that my heart would be my downfall, just like the other men in my family. But here I am in hospice, where apparently cancer will take me. At least the food is good.

All too soon you had to go home to my grandson, knowing that we would never see each other againin this life. But I don’t want to say goodbye, so I will just say, “See you later.”



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