Eight years ago, my uncle, who lived with us, arrived at Baylor College of Medicine as a post-doc doing research on cancer. Every morning, he would enter into the three story BCM building, sometimes not coming out until past midnight. He worked so much over the years that I noticed he was losing weight. One day I was watching basketball when my uncle came home a bit early complaining of extreme pain in his stomach and his back. I didn’t know what to do, but told him to watch the game with me. Instead, he started talking to me about the work he was doing at the lab. I didn’t understand much of it, but despite his chronic pains and weight loss, he spoke enthusiastically of proteins and his hopes that they will be used in the future to treat difficult cancers. It struck me that every passing day he knew he was working for a noble purpose. But what struck me further was that he enjoyed what to me was a boring job. His eagerness was hard to understand because at times, I thought he was a madman. I believe that one person’s passion may become another person’s hero.
Around this time, I entered DeBakey High School where I anticipated immersing in the world of health and medicine to discover what it had to offer. Coincidentally, my search in this field coincided with my uncle’s diagnosis of cancer… In one of his checkups, he was told by his doctor that he had metastatic pancreatic cancer. The picture didn’t fit though. He spent his weeks and holidays in a crusade against the plague that finally captured him. Even worse, he went through rounds of chemotherapy and even had a Whipple procedure where his pancreas was removed. It didn’t stop there. Every week, he spent four hours in the hospital on a dialysis machine, and constantly had to monitor his blood sugar. His health waned, but one thing that never went away was his frequent visits to the lab. Even if he could go for an hour, he’d go to see the progress of the work. That sort of devotion was exactly what I needed to spark my interest in the medical field.
The idea of one person’s passion becoming another person’s hero is a cycle where the people are influenced by those who live revolutionizing lives and have an impact in the world around them that transcends the boundaries of time and space. I used to take for advantage numerous innovations of technology that have facilitated our lives and allow us to think of us and the world around us. The influences that I once possessed as a child showed me no concern of the world. The basketball players and football stars made me lost sight of my real heroes.
I noticed that as time changes, heroes change. As a young child my heroes were my parents. They were my guide, my love, and they were my idols since they made the world around me. As I plunged further into society and the world outside of my home, new heroes evolved in addition to the ones that I was born with. This is where my uncle fit in.
He was passionate because it satisfied his mind and soul. It served to quench his need of intellectual achievement and an emotional desire to help others. But most of all, his passion and drive to succeed in his effort to treat cancer with gene therapy was an inspiration for my own future. Without his inspiration, I would not have a hero to lead me into a world driven by passion. My uncle continues to receive treatment for his complication, but now he has the reassurance that I look up to his drive as a motivation to drive my career into medicine.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.