Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Lung Cancer Cases and Never-Smokers: Cases Growing

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

I've referred to more than one article on health, biomedicine/bioscience, and scientific discovery by Sharon Begley.

On January 17, Eric Boodman informed readers who relied on her careful writing, of her death at age 64 from lung cancer. She was a non-smoker all of her life. I had no idea that she was ill. I think few outside the STAT offices knew. Mr. Boodman's essay introduced me to the extraordinary range of her work--Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, STAT-- as well as her contributions to mentoring science journalists. 

I was struck by what one of friends and colleagues said about her. Boodman notes that "Melinda Beck was unsure of what to do with herself after learning of her death so she opened their college yearbook. 'In her little entry," Beck notes Begley 'had written she wrote that she hoped to be a science journalist.' This led Beck to say 'What an understatement. It's kind of like Louis Pasteur saying, 'Gee, I'd like to be a biologist.''

I was surprised to learn--I shouldn't have been--that "five days before here death, she filed a piece to her editor. It was about non-smokers who get lung cancer--a story she knew intimately, inside out one she was living as she wrote it, neuropathy from the the chemo making it hard for her to hold a pen. She didn't mention that. Ned knew that there was still someone else she'd wanted to interview, another patient she was supposed to call Thursday, but by then she was acutely ill. 'The question,' Ned wrote in an email to her editor, Gideon Gil, 'is what to do with the story. I did not read it but know that she put a lot of work into it, and from my listening post across the room she was still the same sharp reporter and writer as ever, though her energy and ability to concentrate were flagging. she struggle to finish it and was so happy when she filed it with you. I'm hoping in your judgment it is good enough to publish in its current state, or with your essential editing. Sharon probably would not have settled for 'good enough' but it's out of Sharon's hands at this point. Given the subject matter, I hope you share my sense that, if this proves to be the last thing she ever published, how fitting that would be." 

Here is Sharon Begley's last essay, "But I never smoked’: A growing share of lung cancer cases is turning up in an unexpected population."

I'm not going to say anything about it or quote from it. It is informative, thorough and careful with facts and humans affected are always present as we had come to expect. It deserves to be read, appreciated and admired in its fullness, not in quotes or abstracted form.


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