“Do I have cancer?” A New Perspective on Life Sciences

April 21, 2022

When 2022 rolled around, I decided it was time to pick up on some of the healthcare areas I had been putting off. COVID-19 brought so many different challenges and changes with personal healthcare. While most of us were focused on staying healthy and trying to avoid getting sick, many of us also found it easy to ignore things that normally would be routine. Just go ask a dentist. During the height of the pandemic, Dentists across the country say the saw a decrease of almost 80% compared to the year prior of routine exams. Doctors experienced similar decline with the number of visits decreasing by close to 60%. Not surprisingly, COVID-19 took center stage and much of our other healthcare needs went to the back burner.

I am sure I am not alone in admitting that I was one of those people. I found it hard enough to get a haircut during the height of the pandemic, let alone get my teeth cleaned and my cholesterol checked. I am not proud of that fact, especially since I am entering the age and stage in life when the “Check Engine” light is more likely to turn on and staying on top of your health needs SHOULD be a priority.

The good news is that many of us have picked it back up. Doctors and Dentists are starting to see patients return to the clinics and some of the routine checkups that were postponed are now getting completed.

I am proud to say that I too took this to heart and decided it was time to check off some of the items. Good news for my family, friends, and co-workers (and society as a whole) that I had been seeing the dentist as soon as I could. But things like colon screening, cholesterol checks, and dermatologist visits had been bumped. I was committed to get back after it and start to check them off the list.

Last month I decided it was time to head to the dermatologist. Not to be too graphic here, but I had a few things reviewed, removed, and observed over the years. Nothing major, just some standard maintenance. As I headed into the doctor, I was confident that this would be a similar experience.

“Jim, everything looks good, but you do have one spot I would like to biopsy. I’m sure it is fine but let’s just make sure. Once we get this sent to the lab, we will send your results in the mail. I’d like you to come back in 2 weeks to do a wound check,” said my calm, cool and collected doctor.

Two weeks went by, and I almost forgot about my appointment. I remember asking around if anyone had seen any mail with my test results at home. Nothing.

I was scheduled to go in the next day for my wound check when the phone rang. Like many of us, I looked down and saw it was the doctor’s office probably calling me to remind me of my appointment. I sent it to voicemail. It wasn’t until I got a second call that I decided to listen to my messages.

“Jim, this is Doctor H, and I was hoping we could chat. Can you give me a call as soon as you get this message?”

My heart stopped. I felt the blood run out of my extremities and started to get a cold shiver and pit enter my stomach. I had been running 800 miles an hour prior to receiving this call and still had a few more hours of work to complete.

But in that moment, my mind blanked.

Working in the Life Sciences industry, we learn so much about the great things that are taking place on the forefront of medicine. New drugs that can transform disease, cell and gene therapies that are changing the outcomes, CAR-T treatments, computational biology, gene editing, and the list goes on. We are seeing advances in Life Sciences at a staggering rate.

At GForce, I feel fortunate that I get to meet with some of the leading companies and researchers in the industry. I always walk away amazed at how smart, passionate, and driven they are to find cures for the diseases and conditions they are working on.

But today, it was personal.

I called the doctor’s office as soon as I could. Of course, she was with patients and they “would have her call me back.” I must admit, during that time I did everything you are not supposed to do. I went straight to the internet and started researching what I most likely had, what my course of treatment would be, and how I would tell people that I was sick. I mean, my mind went wild.

All of us who work in Life Sciences and Healthcare need to keep in mind that on the other end of everything we do is a patient that is probably losing their mind. They are scared, worried, mad, you name it. Its not pretty, but it is very real and very human. I think I needed to be reminded of this lesson.

After some prodding from my wife, I decided to try and make one more call to the doctor before they closed. The nurse picked up and it was the same person I had spoken to before. She could tell I was nervous.

She said: “I will find her.” An advocate! Thank you.

“Jim, this is Doctor H, how are you? The good news is you don’t have cancer”

A pause that felt like an eternity.

“But we have to do some work.”

I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say, relief washed over me like a flood. Sure, I wasn’t getting out of the deal free and clear, but I wasn’t facing the “Big C.”

I could share so much more about what I learned from this experience recently. The emotions, the joy, and the sadness. Yes, the sadness, realizing that someone had the same experiences I had with a different outcome.

Life Sciences is more than just a job. It is about more than just money and recognition, or at least it should be. At the core, it is taking the very best people we have on the planet to tackle the greatest challenges we face as human beings. What can be more noble than that? Sure, there are always outliers and imperfections with people, but for the most part, the professionals in this industry are committed to doing their very best to help and serve others.

I am grateful that I do not have cancer today. But I am equally grateful for the lessons and reminders I got from this experience.

I know many of you have faced this battle or have family or friends who have received the different news. It is for you and them we must march on. Our work is not done.

Thank you to all those who fight this disease and others every day. We owe you a debt greater than we can pay. We owe it to all of us to keep doing our part, no matter what that part is, to find treatments and cures. I know at GForce we are committed to helping in any way we can. To us, it’s personal.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say, go see your doctor, dentist, dermatologist, etc. It’s time!