Trial and Bearer – Part One
Short Story About Cancer
September 17th, 2018
Press Conference, New York City
Owen tightened his jacket to his neck one last time, forced his dark brown bangs over his cow lick and took one last fleeting breath before stepping out in front of the sponsor-filled curtain and took a seat in the middle chair at the table in front of him. He saw the film crew in the front row; a tall, slim man held the lighting equipment at an odd, well-practiced angle. Owen remembered from his freshman cinema class that he was called a best boy, and he let his mind get lost in the origin of that name for a moment, wishing he didn’t have to return to the issue at hand. Then the cameras really started to flash. He became blinded and reached for the bottle of water in front of him. He gulped down half of it effortlessly and as he popped his ears after swallowing, the noise of the room rushed to his head. He started to feel his vertigo creeping in. Not now. He tapped the microphone in front of him and set his hands on the table to ground himself, controlling the friction. Here we go, he thought.
One week earlier
Owen couldn’t fall asleep. His ten, tireless years of work had led up to what would begin tomorrow at 8am. Well, technically it was today at 8am, seeing as how he had managed to blink away the onset of nighttime and was greeted by initial rays of light adorning the new morning.
The work before the tireless work began on his twelfth birthday. His grandmother, a tenderly opaque woman who had dedicated her entire life to the advancement of medical technology, sat next to him while the family adorned him with gifts. She saved her gift for last, the worldly renowned Dr. Rowan Rameshkar’s newest publication entitled; A Beginner’s Guide to Saving the World; Embryonic Concepts for Curing Embryonic Diseases. After expressing his naive but genuine thank yous for the gift, she mentioned that Dr. Rameshkar was, in her opinion, one of the greatest minds in twenty-first century medicine.
After ice cream, cake, and one overly wet kiss too many from Aunt Jonie, something changed in the previously jovial air. Someone started to cry out from the other room. Owen’s grandmother Leone was lying on the floor, suffering from immediate complications of a stroke. The family would be notified in the morning that the stroke was caused by a massive brain tumor, and two hours later they would be notified that she was dead. He didn’t understand. She had just sat and conversed with him not two hours earlier, and now she would never wake up again. There was only sleep. Owen cried for a few tender minutes, but as his family continued to do so over the coming days he read Dr. Rameshkar’s book. Four times.
His intensity and dedication to curing diseases pushed him through his teenage years and on to Johns Hopkins for his undergraduate studies, then to Stanford for his masters and eventual PhD. Then the tireless work began. It was in his final months of a study that he, with the help of a Nobel Prize-Winning professor by the name of Rowan Rameshkar, made a breakthrough while working with a previously unknown species of plant native to Papua New Guinea. They were working with its capabilities of reversing effects of Alzheimer’s Disease, but were dumbfounded at its speed and effectiveness of attacking cancer cells. It was an incredible time for Owen, Dr. Rameshkar and the team around them. Owen decided to name it Leonaxis, after his grandmother. Attention poured into the ‘Breakthrough of the Century’ as it was billed from all angles of the globe, and coming off the heels of the massive, over-population driven diseased outbreaks of 2017 in China, India and Indonesia, word of Owen and company’s work grew to an eagerly stratospheric level.
Owen worked harder than ever on progressing his work, loving every minute of the growing awareness. Gatherings of survivors, family members unifying, communities holding support rallies, campaigns on Twitter, late night news coverage, and press conferences all became quotidian in nature. Some nights he found himself crying from pure excitement.
Support for FDA approval came in droves, as did the donations for the trial that would begin in-
Bronk! Bronk! Bronk!
His alarm clock boisterously announced the arrival of 7am. He had managed to fall asleep after all. He woke up the same as any other day; coffee on, shower, muffin, coffee down, bathroom, cab arrival. On the way to the hospital he replied to a select few of 47 text messages and 108 emails. After congratulatory greetings at the doors, he proceeded to the main conference room, awaited by Dr. Rameshkar and eight other elite medical professionals. The room was an IT maintenance man’s dream, beautifully interconnected with screens lining the walls and high-performance tablets hooked up to real-time data analysis and visualization, each patient with their own profile to monitor the effects that Leonaxis would have on their cancer cells. As he looked around the room he thought about how proud his grandmother would be. The team took their positions.
Dr. Rameshkar: “Ready when you are.”
Owen paused for a moment and collected himself. He looked at everyone with their fingers raised above their respective red buttons and waited until they all looked back at him with bated postures.
Owen: “Let’s cure cancer.”
more by SANDY DODGE
photograph by DFC