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I don’t profess to be any more sad than anyone else about the death of Senator Kennedy. Yet on Wednesday morning, when I first read the news about his death, it hurt me deeply. Kennedy and I had no tangible connection otherwise. He was the liberal lion of the senate, the last of the storied Kennedy brothers, the last prince of Camelot. I am a first generation American, daughter of Indian immigrant parents, only starting to find my way in life. I think it is because it was his last few months of life, and his moment of death, that forged a connection between me and the senator.
Ted Kennedy, as all of you probably know, was diagnosed with brain cancer in May of 2008. Specifically, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)–which in the WHO system of cancer grading is stage IV–the most aggressive type of glioma. This summer, I started work in the city, on clinical trials devoted to GBM and other high-grade gliomas. As I started work, and found myself learning more about gliomas, Kennedy’s struggle came into greater focus. The treatments he went through, and the challenges he faced, became more real to me. He was not that different from the multitudes of patients I have come across through my work, his struggle was not any easier. This made his resilience and determination to see his goals through all the more admirable, and inspiring.
I am sitting here now, streaming the funeral coverage from the New York Times website, crying and laughing with everyone else who may be watching the services and the heartfelt eulogies. I am also sitting here, with my work before me, trying to understand how our research may shed new light on gliomas. Though this research is not my brainchild, it is still something about which I feel very strongly. I think I felt more pain about Kennedy’s death because brain cancer research has not reached a point where we could give more, quality years of life to those who suffer with brain cancer. I can only wish that we’ll get there in the near future.
In the meantime, I’m going to try to channel Kennedy as I push onward, with my colleagues, towards that distant goal.