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  • Writer's pictureTerri Tomoff

Day 28 of ChildhoodCancerAwarenessMonth - Life is Larger than Science

I know I’m ‘late to the party’ in reading Krista Tippett’s book, Speaking of Faith. She wrote her excellent book in 2007, but the passages and chapters are ethereal. She sheds divine light on spirituality and religion(s) and how they each serve their purposes in an ever-changing and ruthless world.

Toward the end of the book, Ms. Tippett adds an exchange she had with physician, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, about the dilemmas of the human condition through her experience as a doctor: (Doctors are near and dear to my heart and family’s heart)

We thought we could cure everything, but it turns out that we can only cure a small amount of human suffering. The rest of it needs to be healed, and that is different. It’s different. I think science defines life in its own way, but life is larger than science. Life is filled with mystery, courage, heroism, and love—all these things that we can witness but not measure or even understand, but they make our lives valuable anyway.

As much as we rely on science for so many things today, life is larger than science. I beg any doctor to argue the point. Most have seen too much, and much of “it” is most likely unexplainable. There is where life takes on a new leash. It is where the living is most sweet. This is so so hard to put a finger on, but you know it when you feel it, and even the best doctors can’t feel that for their patients. The patients have to forage around for that “it” and come out the other side with awe and wonder.

They say Science is an Art. It surely can be that and so much more. Take, for instance, this story about two young children in a major cancer battle that turned ugly very fast with a fast-moving infection. They had rooms right next to each other. The families were frazzled, as well as the docs treating them, and they huddled close to each other to give hope to each other as the day and night punctuated the ensuing chaos in both hospital rooms.

As we all know, any drug, chemo, or antibiotic has been backed up with millions of lab hours and thousands of trials in the last 100 years to help humanity battle many ailments. The discovery of penicillin in 1928 started the golden age of natural product antibiotic discovery that peaked in the mid-1950s. Antibiotics have enabled people to live close to 25 years longer on average. For people in the battle with cancer and the crazy complications that accompany many protocols, the lifesaver in many instances is antibiotics to cover gram-negative and gram-positive bugs.

Going back to those two hospital rooms, both kids ended up fighting the exact same bug. Several different antibiotics were dispensed to stop the insanity in both rooms, and I take it, were pretty much the same medications, if not the exact medications needed to rid the bug. The boy was three years old, and the girl was a little over 1 year old.

It was lights, camera, and action in both rooms all night long. No one slept, and these two kids were miserable. They hurt, and nothing seemed to help.

By 6:00 a.m., after a valiant battle, the little one-year-old girl died in her parents’ arms. The little boy, he lived.

That little boy is my/our son, Ryan.

I will never forget that family and their daughter. Nothing was fair about the entire two days of relentless chaos in the throws of a deadly infection. Was her body too fragile? Did the antibiotics or combination of antibiotics or anti-virals not work within her body like it did Ryan’s?

Answers were hard to come by during that very sad time. Maybe we will never know the reason or the science behind this dilemma.

And then, there it is: Life is larger than science.



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