Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tip #57: Context is everything

Everything I have learned in my journey to health and happiness so far points into one direction: cells, alone, don't determine what will happen to us. Isolated events are not what can heal us, but connectedness is always necessary. This TED talk explores this notion as well. Mina Bissell is a Distinguished Scientist in the Life Sciences Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.The talk is actually very entertaining to watch, even if you are not that interested in cancer research, because it is one more example of how we do need to look at things from different points of view and her journey through that idea as a scientist is quite inspiring.

Most scientist, even still now, believe that a single cancer cell is sufficient to cause cancer. And maybe this is true. But I learned from Servan Schreiber that autopsies of people who die in accidents or other causes show that most of them had cancer cells in them, but those never became full blown disease.
In this talk talk, Dr. Bissell gives us several examples of how the context and architecture surrounding the cells will determine what happens to them, not the cell alone. For example, mammary gland cells of pregnant mice will get ready to produce milk, but if you transfer them to a Petri dish, this stops happening immediately. In the talk, she gives us some examples of cancer cells which also will behave differently according to the environment where they are placed, and if they are injected into an embryo, they do not grow, but stay suspended there, peacefully. 

I remember when I first I learned about Kris Carr, after my rather gloomy diagnosis, I thought "Wait, this lady has changed her life around 100%, has changed what she eats, what she does, what she thinks, even puts coffee in weird places in her body and she is not cured???" And she still not. It's been 10 years since her diagnosis and she is thriving but her metastases are still there, not moving, not growing, not gone, but still a part of her. I had to learn that it is not the cell itself, it is not cured / uncured. It is more like, "change your life ~ find what works for you ~ change the context" What happens next is a mystery, but it can be a beautiful one.

In this talk, Dr. Bissell at the end mentions these lines from the poem "Among the School Children" by Yates:
O body swayed to music,O brightening glance
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
I hope you enjoy this talk and remember that it does apply to everything in life, don't you think?

As always, thanks so much for reading.