Newsweek is back in print form and it was nice to hear from their photo editor Carolyn Rauch asking me to shoot April’s feature story on Moffitt Center in Tampa, Florida. Their approach to fighting cancer is to try to understand it mathematically in such a way that they will eventually be able to predict its behavior. Like predicting a storm before it hits you. I have a certain fear toward cancer since I lost my father to it about 15 years ago. I remember we tried almost everything after the standard medical procedures started to seem like a lost cause. People recommended he take a certain kind of mushroom supplement, shark cartilage, and many other alternative cancer treatments. At the end, I feel that medical advancements were actually hurting my father, making him live much longer than he was supposed to, without being able to walk, eat or sleep like a healthy person. He was in a lot of pain despite the large amounts of morphine they gave him. After photographing Dr. Robert Gatenby, I asked him quietly, “So, is there any cure for the disease?” With a slight pause, he told me, “Cancer is a part of aging”. Coming from him, a doctor who has been fighting against cancer for the last 30 years, it seemed like not much progress has been made since my father died. Although a part of me feels that it would have been better to let my fathers cancer run its course rather than let him live in misery, I’m sure that if any of my family, including my 1 year old son got cancer, I would probably try to seek out any treatments that might save them, just like we did with my father.
On the lighter note, the people at the Moffitt Center were friendly, and even funny at times. Dr. Anderson, the mathematician, was rather grumpy before his morning coffee just like I had been warned, and Dr. Gatenby was sweet and generous. He kindly changed his shirt for us twice for the picture since we weren’t sure at the time which color was better. Even though there was no time to visit the beach, it turned out to be a memorable visit, and it was good to think about my long past father. Photographed for Newsweek / Solving Cancer: You Can’t Cure What You Don’t Understand / The article can be read here