Archive for April, 2010

The Emperor of All Maladies

12:50am. Sunday morning. I just finished reading the book – a biography of cancer.

For the past two weeks, while I read through the development of the cure for cancer, I relived the years through my cousin’s battle against it. The discovery of her condition, defining the stage of her cancer was John Hunter’s idea in 1778. The surgery to remove her tumor started in the nineteenth century. Her beautiful long hair fell off as she went through chemotherapy and radiotherapy, introduced in the early twentieth century. Her cancer receded. She slowly moved back to her normal life, watching her young son growing up. When it relapsed, the family questioned the doctor’s capability, her treatment, and sought alternative cures – herbs, secret recipes, religion. As I reached the pages about the miracle targeted therapy, I deeply regretted not reading the book earlier. Otherwise I could have found the possible cure for her using the latest discovery. As I read along, I realized even the targeted therapy did not work for every type of cancer. The book finished with a story of a woman who fought cancer for six years with the help from most advanced treatments, and finally had to meet its due. Death is inevitable. Death before an old age is what we hope to alter. In my cousin’s later months, we tried every means to prolong her life, and questioned our decision, seeing how much she suffered from pain.

Years after her death, I still could not reconcile the loss. The book bought me some peace. Cancer is a powerful and intricate malady deeply integrated in our genes. My cousin had fought in every way that was possible. As a family, we had tried every option that was available.

To the author Siddhartha Mukherjee, I thank you for writing this excellent book.