Almost Ideas


I feel like I’m on the cusp of an idea right now. Like I almost have a handle on about a hundred different ideas floating around in my head. And yet, I’m having a hard time catching one and nailing it down. Back in graduate school, I wanted to work with a breast cancer advocacy group or even a news/media group to help bridge the gap between science and people who aren’t trained scientists. Trained scientists just love us some big words, and while they become second nature to us, we forget most people have no idea what we’re talking about. (Case in point, I thought it was adorable when we were dating that Clay talked about aliquotting out food to put in the freezer. Who talks like that? Scientists.)

Academia is pretty inbred– academics beget more academics. They rarely know anything else, so they’re not much help in the way of career development if you want to bust out of that ivory tower.  I tried on my own to get in touch with some advocacy groups, to volunteer, even, and couldn’t find any interest among them for a scientist in some sort of advisory and education capacity. Discouraged, and also super pregnant, I decided to leave the lab and stay at home with my new baby. But last fall when I prepared to send Turner to kindergarten, I was already thinking about what I might be when I “grew up.” Still feeling that discouragement from all those years ago, I resigned myself to the possibility of an adjunct position teaching basic science. Boring? Yes. But at least it would be something. And then, breast cancer forced itself back into my life.

Strangely, it wasn’t long into the treatment process that I realized that if I made it through all this, I might just be getting exactly what I had wanted all those years ago. Having a PhD in breast cancer research is great, but having the experience, too? You can’t get that in a book or a lab. You have to really earn that.

And so now I have lots of “almost ideas” floating around in my head– ways I can use my education and the experience, both hard earned, to do something I’ve always wanted to do.  I want to be able to help other women facing a breast cancer diagnosis to understand their options, to understand what the next year of their life will be like, and to understand that there will likely be many more after that. Breast cancer is not an automatic death sentence, but it isn’t all pretty and pink, either.  Understanding what is happening takes a lot of the scariness out of it, and having confidence that you have made the best decisions possible about your care makes such a difference.

I’ve got a couple of little projects that I’m working on and will share here when appropriate, but I’m still working on figuring out just what I want to be when I grow up. Somehow talking (or writing!) out loud helps me crystallize my thoughts, so this may be a recurring theme until I can grab a hold of a few ideas and really work them out. A good run with a good friend helped me a clear up a couple of things this morning, so feel free to share any thoughts you have!

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