Last week got off to a flying start when a parcel arrived containing some rather beautiful French lingerie; a gift from Chantelle who’d picked up on one of my blog post about how I felt wearing one of their exquisite bras after two years of sturdy post surgical lingerie. It’s sitting waiting in my lingerie drawer; it’s almost too beautiful to wear, but I’m sure the moment will arrive when I feel the need to look elegant and feel fabulous. Thank you Kerri and the Chantelle UK team.
Shortly after unveiling my lovely undies, I ventured out for something more serious; I had been invited to visit the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre at Nottingham Trent University. Like many, I didn’t know that Nottingham has it’s own direct funded cancer research centre; I must confess I had to steel myself, and with some justification, as talking about the big C isn’t easy for me, ever.
I was greeted by their Head of Fundraising, Sue Dewey OBE, who gave me an in-depth tour of the facility which specialises in targeted research into breast and prostate cancer. Talk about staring the beast straight in the eye, it was challenging and cathartic in almost equal measures.
I met a research scientist, Dr Tarik Regad, who explained how cancer stem cells can behave, and that his research focuses on building more understanding of how these cells behave differently from normal, healthy cells. I braved a suggestion based on a personal theory that my breast cancer had returned after a ten year remission because my immune system was shot to pieces, caused by stress. I emphasise that this is my personal belief, and for many like me, it guides my daily choices on health and wellbeing.
My question was sensitively fielded, and met with some validation – for me, this information made the visit worthwhile, in spades. I heard about how their research is focusing on the development of immunotherapies, which work with the body’s immune system rather than compound treatments such as chemotherapy (which go for all out war on cancer cells and take healthy cells with them). They have the potential to be not only kinder to the body, but infinitely more effective. But there’s still a long way to go.
If I learned one thing, it is that one day the secrets of this this terrible, crippling, terrifying disease will be revealed. It gave me faith, and I want to share it here.
I would encourage anyone with an interest to go and have a look-see for themselves; here’s their latest newsletter, and a great demo you can zoom to see just how small a cancer cell is, look for the skin cell. Scientists at the John van Geest Centre can splice one of these little suckers into thousands of layers in the lab; see how long it takes for you to spot one, then consider how difficult it is to crack the code.
The centre has ambitious plans to expand its research, which is already renown and ground breaking, and it needs some serious funds to achieve it. Help, if you can, please:
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