Many of you will know that I’m doing a fundraising charity ride, called The Ride to Conquer Cancer, which is a 200km cycling event over 2 days.
All the funds raised will go to the Western Australian Institute of Medical Research.
Well, the other day I organised to go into the WAIMR labs to talk to some actual scientists. I wanted to know more about how the money will be spent.
Dressed in polka dots and lilac skinny jeans, I braced myself to meet some very brainy people in white coats who speak in big scientific words.
I was a little nervous, because the last time I was in a SCIENCE LABORATORY, I was in high school biology dissecting an eye ball (from a cow) and dead frogs. Not that I expected to see eye balls or frogs… it’s just one of those memories that makes me nervous… about laboratories. And scientists.
I was met by WAIMR staffer Carolyn, and I found out that she is ALSO taking part in the cycling event. Cool! She gave me a tour of the offices and labs.
There are over 200 researchers working at WAIMR. 200! I had no idea.
Everyone was in the midst of working, so the place was bustling… in a good, tidy, productive way!
So this is a typical lab where they do their research. Thankfully, no dead frogs. It was just what you’d expect from TV – benches, sterile medical stuff, test tubes. And lots of machines that look like really expensive little fridges or microwaves.
I was introduced to Ellen, who was working with cancer cells. She’s moving them from one place to another, just like on TV.
A dish of cancer cells. Right there on the bench. Wow.
Then I met Associate Professor Evan Ingley, one of WAIMR’s top researchers – which is probably why they gave him the TOP JOB of trying to explain what WAIMR does, to someone (like me) who spends a lot of time working out what to wear to parties (or just to pick up the kids from school).
On Evan’s left is a special machine like a fridge, where they keep some of the cancer samples. He assured me that they have a different – and much less expensive – fridge where the researchers keep their lunch.
I asked Evan – So what do you researchers actually do?
He explained that his own work is to do with protein-protein interactions. I could see he was trying really hard to make it simple enough that I could understand it, without making me feel like an idiot. And I stood there and tried really hard to understand what he was talking about. I kept nodding and after a while, I realised two things.
One, that my brain hurt.
And two, that I could never be a scientist.
BUT… I did get the big picture. By studying the enzymes and proteins in cancer cells, WAIMR can discover new ways to influence the way cancer cells grow. They are also finding ways to use enzymes to disrupt signals between cancer cells. I think. Overall, they are finding ways to prevent disease developing and to create improved treatments.
You still following?
Evan sped through the numerous ways they were going about their research, on all the hundreds of different cancers, and he told me about some different combinations of their approaches and testing. As he listed a few out, even I could work out that all the different combinations and variations were EXPONENTIAL … and I was overwhelmed by all the work that needs to be done. The task seemed enormous.
I was thinking, “Oh my god, I can’t believe you’re standing here talking to me! Go back to work and find a way to beat cancer! I mean, why don’t you have more people working for you??”
And BAM! That’s why the money is needed.
Evan showed me some different cancer cells that they work with. They all looked the same to me!
For the rest of the tour… I felt very humbled.
These scientists go to work every day and work on ground breaking information, preventions and treatments that might save my children and grand children one day in the future. This is the kind of work that saved my husband’s life, but hadn’t yet been done for my friend Claire (who died this year), and the many thousands of others who have lost their fight with cancer, and who WILL lose their lives in the future if more research is not done now.
And you know what? Quite a few of the people I met at WAIMR are also using their own spare time to raise money for their own research work.
That knowledge alone fills me with amazement, admiration and gratitude. And it further cements my passion for raising more money for cancer research.