The questions! Oh, the many questions of a six year old. As a breast cancer researcher with a young child I get the usual barrage of questions about life but with a few tricky additions like “why do people get cancer” and “what is cancer”. For me, these are just questions to try understand my work, a fact that I am very thankful for. I often find myself having elaborate conversations with my son about my research. His interest in research stems from the innocence of curiosity and is driven by the fascination of how the body works. Children always have a unique perspective and it’s neat to see this applied to cancer research. He often comes up with ideas that he gets really excited about, such as “Mom, why don’t we train immune cells to attack the cancer cells like they attack bacteria” or the after-bedtime inquiry “what if we broke the parts of the cancer cells that let them move”?
After all the talks about my work and getting happily brought along to various walks-for-cancer he decided that he wanted to do his own fundraiser for breast cancer research. While a walk or run wasn’t an easy event to organize for his kindergarten class, he went for the next best thing: a pizza fundraiser. Let’s be honest, kids probably like pizza more than a 5km walk or run. I should also mention that he insisted on homemade pizza as “it’s healthier and that’s important”. When I asked him why this was important to him he told me that “when I first went on the breast cancer walk/run (the Breast Cancer Society of Canada Mother’s Day walk, a family tradition for 3 years now) I really liked it, I liked that people were raising money for breast cancer. I wanted to do more to help so I raised money for breast cancer with my class”. He then continued on “because I know some people out there needed it and I really wanted to help people who have breast cancer and with more money we can do more research and know more about cancer and then we can fix it”. He truly believes in the power of research and seems to really understand that through research we make new discoveries we can actually help people live better lives.
When the big day arrived, we baked a bunch of pizzas unusually early in the day and delivered them to some very eager kids. I was just hoping everyone would have fun and learn something, but when all was said and done, it turns out they also raised a lot more than we expected. If some kindergarten kids can bring together a fundraiser on a random Thursday, I think it proves any of us can do something towards an important cause that touches so many lives.
Become a breast cancer fundraising hero like Ethan, make a donation to life-saving breast cancer research today: bcsc.ca/donate
Karla Williams is a postdoctoral fellow who has published several papers on invadopodia in cancer cells. Ethan Williams is six years old, he attends kindergarten, helps his mom (Karla) make pizza and is a breast cancer fundraising hero!