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The Entropy of Cancer

Entropy: total chaos, lack of predictability, and gradual decline into disorder. This concept of “everything in order will eventually be in a state of disorder” has always intrigued me. It’s the reason why my recently cleaned closet has already become annihilated, and why despite my color-coded checklists, things always get missed.

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In my mind, cancer is the epitome of entropy. All it takes is one mutation, one rogue cell to cause absolute havoc in an once orderly body. Cancer is the ultimate puzzle, and it is this aspect of it that first piqued my interest in the field of oncology. However, the attraction to the study of it is combined with a deep sense of fear of the word and disease. That dreadful word brings back memories of the uncontrolled growth that flooded a loved one’s body with aggressive leukemic cells when he was just a teenager. It is also the word that imposed itself upon my uncle in the form of Stage 4 Esophageal Cancer.  It is terrifying because it defies odds and conventions, and extends it’s invisible grasp to tear apart an entire grief-stricken family.

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Despite it being a horrid disease, the past few years have taught me that cancer’s negative implications are outshone by human resilience and the will to fight. The following children are just a few examples of these qualities:

  1. The Prankster: There was one particular child that clearly demonstrated that he was more than an unfortunate diagnosis. This child had a big sign on his door saying, “must do squats to enter.” He demanded that I follow the instructions to be deemed worthy enough to come in. I quickly caved! During the time I had him as a patient, he continued to pose exciting, new challenges for me to carry out. When I failed his push-up challenge,  he ambushed me with a heavily armed nerf gun, a toy that had quite the reputation on the floor. He exemplified the notion of true resilience!
  2. The Hugger: Fact one: Those who know me well know that I LOVE HUGS! (I cannot explain why, but just know that a good hug is magical).  Fact two: I love bell ringings, which mark the end of cancer treatment at the hospital I work at. Combine the two, and it is the ultimate “warm and fuzzy” feeling. A couple of years ago, I had the fortunate privilege of attending my first bell ringing. It was for a toddler who had just beat cancer! Cancer may have caused his body to become marked with battle scars from past central lines, chemotherapy, and surgeries, but it failed to take his personality! He rung that bell with such pride. Then in an unexpected turn of events, that child screamed “huggie” and darted towards me with his arms wide open. The embrace was electric! He embodied the notion that heroes do really come in all shapes and sizes.
  3. DSC01393The Photographer: On the trip to India, I met a young boy named Nasir (pictured above) through Pallium. He had recently been diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and had travelled hundreds of miles away from home to get treatment. On our first encounter, he instantaneously grabbed my camera and started taking selfies of himself. With a smile on his face, he uttered words in Malayalam, which I didn’t understand; however,  I guess I didn’t have to. His spunkiness spoke for itself. He was a feisty, happy young man that inherently refused to be treated like a sick child. He just wanted to be! Mom and I talked in hindi as she explained that he was a beloved son and younger brother. The diagnosis had caused a lot of social and financial challenges on the family, however they had managed to remind him that he was much more than his illness. At the end of our encounter, he uttered some words back to me and then gave me a hug (YAY!) and a fist pump. He proved that human connection is palpable and transcends the boundaries of spoken language.

 DSC01375These warriors have taught me that they cannot be confined to the constricts of being just  “cancer patients.” They prove that there is an incredible amount of dignity in fighting for hope, health, time, and purpose. They are kids  and adults who yearn for normalcy and simplicity. And, they are folks that deserve a cure!

Please consider donating to help bring about more research funding and advances towards finding a cure. Here are some local projects:

  1. Pelotonia: 100% of the proceeds from this fundraiser goes toward cancer research being done in Columbus, Ohio. The majority of the proceeds go to The Ohio State University. A significant portion also goes to research that is being conducted at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Here is one riders profile, Ravi Tripathi, MD. He is participating in the 100-mile race and is trying to raise $2,000 for the cause. He is almost there! Help him reach his goal by clicking on his name.

2. BuckeyeThon: This is an annual dance marathon that is hosted by The Ohio State University. It raises money for the Hematology/ Oncology/Bone Marrow Transplant department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Click here to find out information on how you can help!

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Priyal Patel

More about Priyal Patel

Priyal Patel graduated from the Fairleigh Dickinson University-College at Florham with bachelors in biological sciences and minors in chemistry, lab sciences and anthropology. She then did her medical school studies at The New York Institute of Technology. She is currently in training for Pediatric Hematology/ Oncology.