Book Review: Winter ~ Five Windows on the Season

November 24, 2011 4:35 pm

Winter: Five Windows on the Season, by Adam Gopnik • Anansi Press, 2011, 256 pgs.

Some of the finest days occur in the month of October. Warm, golden days are typically followed by cool nights. Green landscapes are transformed into beautiful combinations of red, orange and yellow. But the beauty of fall brings with it the promise of an infinitely more challenging season, winter. Not long after the leaves have fallen and the trees are bare, much of Canada will be contending with winter’s deep freeze. The further north, the more bitter the cold, the shorter the days and longer the nights. Another flu season will render many sick and listless and longing for the warmth of summer. Yet for all of winter’s challenges, there will be compensatory pleasures. The hockey season will be in full swing. As we move into the heart of the season, kids will not only play the game in indoor rinks, but on frozen ponds under clear skies. Others will find joy in skiing down a snow-covered mountain or across snow-filled trails. Families flock to the Rideau Canal, stopping their skate only to line up for a hot chocolate or a beaver tail.


As Adam Gopnik’s book Winter (and this year’s CBC/Massey Lectures) makes clear, winter is at once a season of struggle and joy. Yes winter is a period of sustained darkness and biting cold. But for Gopnik, who was born in Philadelphia but raised in Montreal, few images resonate more strongly than of kids playing hockey on frozen ponds as dusk falls on a cold December day or of scenes of families huddling by the fire, while frost builds on the windows. The images are familiar but call to mind separate pleasures. There is the experience of winter outdoors – playing hockey on the outdoor rink or trudging through the snow – and the joy of warmth when outside is freezing and streets are covered in ice. We relish both kinds of winter experience.

But if this were all Gopnik celebrates, the choice of winter as the theme of this year’s CBC/Massey Lectures would have been odd. Indeed, Gopnik’s aim in part is to delve more deeply into our experience and understanding of the coldest season. In doing so, he moves back and forth through time and examines winter through the lens of poets, painters, novelists and musicians. Many of the ideas and images we associate with the season are familiar, even to those who don’t live in a cold climate. Others are not obvious at all and it is these that give the book a depth and intellectual heftiness that we expect from a writer of Gopnik’s calibre. He writes, for example, of winter’s connection to German art and the country’s nationalist ambitions in the 18th century. Embracing winter’s severity, we are told, was part of Germany’s response to the exaggerated promise of the Enlightenment emanating from France.

Moreover, our experience of winter is perpetually changing, sometimes subtly but occasionally in a truly profound manner. The combination of urbanization and technological change has allowed more of us to remain removed from the cold. As Gopnik explains, Montreal is increasingly comprised of two cities, one above ground and the other subterranean. People can walk nearly twenty miles underground, access hundreds of shops and most of the city’s business area and the Metro without having to walk outside. As much as we may love winter, in big cities especially, we are constantly and often ingeniously searching for ways to experience it from a position of warmth and comfort. Such efforts are understandable but still may leave us nostalgic for a time in which winter was more deeply experienced and fully embraced.

"I wish I had a river that I could skate away on."

Indeed the connection between memory and winter is a theme that winds its way through the entire book. Occasionally, the insights this connection yields strike the reader as arbitrary or forced. Is winter really, as Gopnik contends, the season we most readily associate with memory? Nevertheless, that connection seems strikingly prescient in the book’s final chapter, in which Gopnik discusses the growing threat of global warming. Winter, he suggests, is a season from which we often attempt to escape. But for many of those that find refuge in the south, the memory of winter often reveals an unexpected attachment to the season. Gopnik occasionally refers to Joni Mitchell’s classic song “River,” in which she sings in a voice rich with longing and melancholy. “I wish I had a river that I could skate away on.” As the planet warms, winter will increasingly become the season for which we long. To be sure, it’s premature to speak of winter’s disappearance, but hardly premature at all to insist anthropogenic-induced climate change threatens winter as we know it now. Glaciers are melting, the ozone layer above the Arctic Circle is disappearing and winter temperatures are gradually inching their way higher. No one knows for certain the long-term implications of unsustainably high green house gas emissions, particularly for a country as big and geographically varied as Canada. But by anticipating the potentially dire consequences of global warming, Gopnik’s ode to winter is, by the book’s end, a beautiful lament for that which is slowly being lost.

Evolutionary History: Uniting History and Biology to Understand Life on Earth By Edmund Russell

September 13, 2011 11:09 am

Book by:  Edmund Russell (Cambridge University Press, 2011, 216pp.)

Reviewed By: Don MacLean

To the untrained eye, it may appear impossible to see evidence of the evolutionary process in the world around us. All animals and plants are born and live whatever life they have before passing on. Human beings may have evolved from our distant ancestors, but where is there evidence that we are still evolving in any discernible fashion? Despite the fleeting nature of all life, the forms living beings assume can appear fixed. A horse is a horse. A tree is a tree. A person is a person. Similarly human beings exert a staggering influence on the planet’s environment, but evolution does not appear to be part of that ongoing process. The study of ecology sheds light on how the environment is changing, but typically underestimates or ignores altogether the role of evolution in facilitating change or as an outcome of such change. It’s as though evolution either occurs outside of history or not at all (as creationists would have us believe). Yet, as biologists will tell you, there is evidence everywhere of evolutionary processes subtly but often profoundly shaping the world. We just need to look more closely.  In learning how to do so, it is useful to re-examine how evolution has shaped history.

This, at least, is the underlying theme of Edmund Russell’s book, Evolutionary History: Uniting History and Biology to Understand Life on Earth. Agriculturally, technologically, economically and politically: virtually every large scale human endeavour, according to Russell, has evolutionary impacts not only on humans but on the natural world. The book is rich with examples. Consider the fate of elephants in Zambia, Africa. It used to be that the vast majority of elephants had tusks, with good reason. For an elephant, tusks were extraordinarily useful. They helped the creatures dig for water in dry landscapes. To use the biological term, “natural selection favoured tusk bearing.” Yet towards the end of the 20th century the majority of elephants living in Zambia were without tusks. Why would the elephant species develop without tusks when for centuries natural selection dictated the opposite? The answer is that elephants with tusks were ruthlessly hunted and killed in order to serve the demand for ivory. Elephants without tusks thus began to have a much higher survival rate than those with tusks. This example also points to the role of the state in shaping the evolutionary process. Zambia’s state exercised very little control over elephant hunting and thus did nothing to stem the near elimination of tusked elephants.

By contrast, the Canadian state’s more active role in regulating the hunting of bighorn sheep rams has shaped the evolutionary process in a less predictable fashion. Canadian authorities understood that hunters of the bighorn sheep in Ram Mountain, Alberta desired large horns above all else. In a bid to manage the species’ survival, the government established a minimum size limit on the sheep that could be hunted. The inadvertent outcome of the state’s efforts was to selectively favour those bighorn sheep rams with smaller horns. More of the smaller sheep survived and thus the likelihood that the genetic trait dictating small horn size was also more readily passed down to offspring.

By reasserting humanity’s central role in shaping the evolutionary process, Russell raises questions that are not merely of academic interest. To begin with, our attempts to minimize the spread of communicable diseases can facilitate the resistance among those pests (like the malaria carrying mosquito) and infectious organisms (such as the malaria plasmodium, which causes malaria) that together spread infections. As Russell demonstrates, insects and bacteria and other such organisms are very well suited to thrive in the game of evolution. They generate many offspring, thereby increasing the odds that genetic traits conducive to survival in the face of threats are passed down. They can also readily adapt to different habitats.

Conversely, many other species have been driven to extinction because of the combination of the human impact on their environment and their relative inability to evolve quickly. Millions of buffalo used to roam the Canadian prairies. Railroad construction then rendered human mobility across the landscape much faster and more efficient. As European communities moved further west more and more of the buffalo’s terrain was used for agricultural purposes. Moreover, the proliferation of guns made entire herds of buffalo easy targets. The buffalo, for its part, had no evolutionary defenses to cope with the sudden and far-reaching anthropogenic-induced changes to their environment. Within a few generations, North America’s buffalo population was all but wiped out.  The two examples highlight our power to not only shape the evolutionary process, but to engender unwelcome predicaments. As Russell claims, human beings can inadvertently facilitate conditions conducive to the evolution of organisms we would prefer to do without and the extinction of those species we should want to see thrive. What are the implications of such predicaments? How, for example, should we adapt if antibiotics engender bacterial resistance and thus more virulent and deadly strains of diseases such as malaria or tuberculosis? How will climate change impact the evolution of species? Russell’s marvelous book forces us to consider such challenging questions.

Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind

July 13, 2011 10:20 am

by Brian Fagan • Bloomsbury Press, 2011, 384 pp.

This spring’s flooding of the Assiniboine River in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and the Richelieu River in Quebec has thrust surrounding communities into crisis. The inundation of farmlands has destroyed crops and livelihoods. Homes have been lost. Meanwhile drought along the Yangtze River has made drinking water increasingly inaccessible for millions of Chinese citizens. Although the urgent needs generated by these water-based crises are different, they point to the same conclusion. Despite our pretensions to the contrary, our relationship to water remains precarious and will become more so as the climate changes in unpredictable ways.

Humanity’s relationship with water is the subject of Brian Fagan’s Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind. In keeping with his best books, Fagan cleverly mixes his erudition with beautifully written depictions of life in the distant past. The combination leaves the reader feeling he is on a journey of discovery. We learn how gravity dictates the flow of water and how early human communities devised water diversion schemes that made irrigation possible. We learn of the enormous human toll of past civilizations’ great water monuments and how steam power made water accessible to depths hitherto unimaginable, thereby fundamentally altering our relationship to the ‘elixir’ of life. With the advent of steam power, water was increasingly treated as simply a commodity to be bought and sold and as a resource vital to our mastery over the planet. It is these narrowly defined approaches to water to which Fagan takes serious exception. Indeed the book’s twin themes are that fresh water must be conceived of as a finite resource and our ongoing attempts to achieve mastery over water are doomed to failure. If we are to survive our looming water crises, there must instead be a respect – indeed reverence – for humanity’s most precious resource.

Fagan is most insightful when he establishes the deeper connections between water and the rise and fall of distant civilizations. Throughout history the harnessing of water’s power has been designed to bring more land under cultivation and increase crop yields. As yields increased, so too did populations and population densities, thereby requiring further increases in a landscape’s productivity. But in arid and semi-arid landscapes in particular, ongoing attempts to increase crop yields often imposed unsustainable stresses on both the land and the dependent communities. To take one example, the Sassanian Empire (224 C.E.-652 C.E.) encompassed territory that included Iran, Iraq, much of The Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, Armenia and the Southern Caucasus. Prisoners of war were used to build irrigation works between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Consequently ever bigger tracts of land were brought under cultivation. As the scale of projects increased, control over them often passed from the village level to more centralized authorities. Responses to any water management crises were thus less nimble and ultimately less effective. Increasing the number of irrigation works eventually produced less drainage. Soils were thus damaged at a time when population densities were increasing. As yields decreased, moreover, farmers no longer had the option of reverting to a more nomadic lifestyle. The results were disastrous. As Fagan makes clear, declining land productivity precipitated sharp reductions in food production and accompanying increases in epidemic disease. Even today much of the land brought under cultivation between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers is salt laden and unproductive.

Fagan’s deep awareness of water’s vital role in any civilization’s fate is what makes the book’s final chapter devoted to our current predicament such compelling reading. Although he talks of having a ‘reverence’ for water, it is rooted not in religion, but rather our looming water related challenges. This is in keeping with the elementary truth preached by environmentalists: we must respect nature’s limits if our civilization is to survive and thrive. There is little evidence, however, that water’s limits are understood or respected. On the contrary, water is still treated as an infinitely renewable resource that should be manipulated at almost any cost to meet human ends. Los Angeles is the archetypical example of a city built using water diverted from rivers and lakes hundreds of miles away. The construction of aqueducts made water diversion and thus irrigation possible in what remains a semi-arid landscape. As Fagan makes clear, however, such increases cannot continue indefinitely. Water tables are falling in, among other places, China, India and the United States – precisely the countries where demand for the resource is accelerating exponentially. The Ganges as well as many of the world’s other great rivers have diminished flows, even as the number of people they serve continues to rise. The Tigris, Euphrates and Nile Rivers are among the river basins in which much of humanity live and which are shared by many countries. Indeed the combination of reduced river flows and growing demand for water points to ominous possibilities. To take one example, Turkey’s plans to produce hydro electric dams using both the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers may seriously diminish water flow and access in both Syria and Iraq. How will Turkey’s neighbours respond? As this scenario suggests, many of the world’s future conflicts may very well be over water.

Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont

May 30, 2011 10:06 am

By Joseph Boyden • Penguin, 2010, pp.204

After a night spent alone in mid-May 1885, Louis Riel emerged from the wilderness and surrendered to Canadian military. He was the leader of the Métis rebellion that the government of Sir John A. McDonald was intent on crushing. Riel hoped that voluntarily turning himself over would garner him some goodwill on the part of the authorities. It soon became clear that none would be forthcoming. Following months in captivity he was charged with high treason. The trial was held in Regina even though Riel has asked that it be held closer to home. The judge assigned to the trial was no judge at all, but rather a stipendiary magistrate who has formerly publicly denounced the Métis leader. Instead of 12 jury members, only 6 were picked for this trial and all were white, Protestant males from Ontario, where the Métis had no respect and even less sympathy. Finally, Riel’s defence only had a few days to prepare. The trial’s outcome was thus hardly surprising. Riel is found guilty of high treason and given the death penalty. On November 16, 1885 Riel was hanged.

The fate of Louis Riel is known by most Canadians. Less appreciated is the role of Gabriel Dumont in Riel’s return to Canada from exile and the Métis rebellion that soon followed. In his book Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, the Canadian novelist Joseph Boyden explores these aspects of Riel’s story. In the mid to late 19th century, Canada’s buffalo population was being driven to near extinction. The Métis were thus forced to become subsistence farmers. But the land they were living on for generations was fertile and thus valuable. The federal government would routinely send surveyors west to capture more and more land. Like the rest of the Indian populations, the Métis were regarded as a nuisance to be subdued and certainly not as a people worthy of respect or equality. The Métis, of course, would not prove so easy to efface. Gabriel Dumont was among the Métis leaders. He was strong as a bull, a skilled fighter and fiercely committed to protecting his community from the growing threat from the east. But he realized if the Métis were to successfully defend themselves they would require the presence of their spiritual leader, Louis Riel. And so early one morning in early June 1884, Dumont rode south to Montana, where he found Riel living a quiet life. After careful deliberation, Riel agrees to return from exile.

As Boyden describes, Riel’s role in the Métis rebellion is complicated and contradictory. He was their spiritual leader and thus inspired devotion among his fellow Métis. He believed the path to peace and reconciliation with the government was through non-violence. The Métis demands were, after all, reasonable and fair. They wanted right to the land that they had living on for years. They wanted respect for their culture and they wanted to avoid the conditions of dire poverty that were already starting to afflict native Canadians everywhere around them. Surely, Riel thought, the government would at least acknowledge the legitimacy of their grievances and demands. Surely they would want to avoid bloodshed. Almost up until the day he surrendered, Riel clung to these hopes.

Such expectations were misguided but not necessarily unreasonable. The problem was that Riel was, at the very least, delusional. He believed he was a prophet of a new world and that God spoke to him directly. His delusions compromised his military judgment, but not the support of his community. Dumont is thus torn by the combination of Riel’s exulted status and the questionable direction in which he pushed the rebellion. Should Dumont share in Riel’s faith in God and in the government, despite all the evidence that contradicted both? Should the Métis avoid engaging in military battles with Canadian military forces? Dumont was a brave man, a warrior. His instinct was to fight. He knew better than Riel than to trust the government to negotiate in good faith, or to trust that the military would not ruthlessly crush the rebellion given the chance. But he also believed Riel possessed greater spiritual gifts than he and that Riel’s faith might ultimately prove decisive. Perhaps the Métis were on the verge of establishing a ‘new world.’ Their opposing instincts lead to crucial bouts of indecisiveness on the part of the rebellion. Eventually the Métis were defeated.

Boyden’s first priority in writing this book is to simply tell the story well of these two great men and the rebellion they led. He brings his considerable skills as a novelist to bear on the task. He brilliantly creates a sense of tension and foreboding from the first page onward. The sense that the Métis and the Canadian military are on a collision course is palpable. But Boyden’s aim is also to make the reader reflect on the broader themes of injustice, violence and cultural intolerance the lives of Dumont and Riel touch on. As Boyden reminds the reader, the fate of the two men and the community they led raises questions still relevant in the world today.

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

March 6, 2011 1:39 am

John Vaillant, Knopf Canada, 2010 • 329pp.

The region is Primorye, located in Russia’s Far East. On a frigid day in the dead of winter, a man is returning to his cabin in the remote wilderness with his dog. The region is populated with Amur tigers, which have an awesome ability to be present without being seen. A tiger’s presence is thus often impossible to detect until it emerges from the shadows to launch a fierce attack. When the man is reported missing, a team of inspectors whose job it is to protect tigers from human poachers, begin a search. The outcome is somehow known in advance. Within hours, the team uncovers the evidence of the tiger’s ferocious power. The snow is bloodstained and human and dog bones are scattered about the frozen landscape. The men fear the tiger’s presence and thus quickly retreat for fear of crossing it again. In the wake of the deadly attack, serious questions must be answered. Why did the tiger attack a person? Will it attack again? The gathering of evidence raises a deeper question still. Why did the tiger intentionally stake out its victim?

This is the event and a sample of the questions it inspired that forms the basis of John Vaillant’s book, The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival. A tiger weighing close to seven hundred pounds that can cover fifty yards in a blink of an eye is stalking members of a small community located in one of the remotest parts of Russia. In telling the tale, Vaillant also draws the reader into a world populated with a cast of characters that in so many ways exemplify post Perestroika Russia. The changing relationship between the tigers inhabiting this remote wilderness and the human communities surrounding it begins to shed light on the reasons for the attacks. Many of the men are poor, desperate and fatalistic. The forest for them represents an opportunity to stake out a meager livelihood, sometimes by poaching tigers. The region borders China, where there exists a booming black market for all parts of the great animal. Others are men of enormous physical strength whose professional responsibility is to exercise some state control in a largely lawless region. Alas, they are almost powerless to stop the onslaught. Indeed as Vaillant makes clear, Perestroika was necessary in Russia’s evolution towards a more democratic state, but it also ushered in an era in which tigers have been more easily and ruthlessly hunted. In Russia’s remotest regions, the state’s power and resources are limited and people must find a way to survive in a place with few economic opportunities. The physical climate is almost as unrelentingly harsh as the economic climate. Winters are frigid and summers are scorching hot. Not surprisingly, protecting tigers and other forms of conservation is hardly uppermost in the minds of most of the region’s inhabitants. In such a place, the tiger, for all its power and majestic beauty, barely stands a chance.

Indeed Vaillant’s greatest strength is his ability to create suspense while simultaneously exploring the tiger’s world and the forces fuelling the tiger population’s decline. The reader is drawn to the edge of his/her seat waiting to learn of the tiger’s next attack. The community’s anxiety is palpable. But in recalling that anxiety and the attempts to track the tiger down, Vaillant is always directing the reader towards the larger story of the threat to the Amur tiger as a species. Where there were once many thousands of tigers, there are now only hundreds left. The dwindling of the tiger population, for Vaillant, is indicative of a growing imbalance in the ecosystem and the web of relationships that make up life in the taiga. Tigers help to maintain a balanced ecosystem by virtue of their power. When they kill a predator for food, other animals all the way down the food chain benefit as well. Some readers may feel Vaillant is in danger of elevating both the tiger’s role and its intelligence. The creature acts according to instinct and is not nearly as intelligent or discerning as he or others might suggest. Yet the tiger at the heart of the story clearly demonstrated the sort of intelligence we don’t normally associate with wild animals. It appears as though he stalked his first victim with calculation and patience. In the gathering of evidence, moreover, we discover that the victim in question did indeed poach tigers.

Vaillant is not without hope. If the tiger is to be saved there must be a greater recognition of what might be referred to as indigenous wisdom. Throughout the period of the tiger’s rapid decline, the Udeghe, Nanai and Orachi communities have all served as potent reminders that tigers and humans once peacefully coexisted. There once was a mutual respect. Tigers, they insist would not kill humans so long as humans would not kill them. Humans, in other words, need to better appreciate that ecosystems require balance and landscapes should be shared. Otherwise we run the risk of dominating the tiger to the point of its extinction. n

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

January 6, 2011 4:13 am

Siddhartha Mukherjee • Scribner, Toronto, 2010, 571pp.

In 1961, the multi-drug therapy referred to as VAMP initially showed impressive signs of success in treating childhood leukemia. When given to patients, tumours receded, leukemia cells were reduced in the bone marrow and white blood cell counts returned to normal. Within months of having achieved remission, however, patients would return to their doctors complaining of debilitating headaches and paralysis of the face. Such symptoms were signs the leukemia cells had spread to the brain. Indeed, most of the children died from metastasized brain cancer. The tragic pattern pointed to a vital question: why did the cancer cells metastasize in the brain and not somewhere else in the body? As researchers discovered, there was an evolutionary underpinning to the process of remission and eventual metastasis. Human beings evolved such that the brain was protected from foreign chemicals. The cancer cells were thus using the brain as a refuge from the chemotherapy drugs.

This is but one of many poignant stories of cancer in Siddartha Mukherjee’s magisterial book, The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. The theme that binds together the book’s disparate parts is, in a sense, cancer’s hallmark: success in both our understanding and treatment of the disease has been incremental, temporary and typically accompanied by tragic setbacks. Indeed, even as the scientific understanding of cancer grew more accurate, there remained staggering gaps in our knowledge of how to prevent or treat the disease. Many in the medical community who understood that lung cancer was caused by the uncontrollable growth of malignant cells also insisted that smoking could not possibly cause the disease. Similarly the notion that cancer would metastasize in different regions of the body was poorly understood until relatively recently. This lack of insight meant that many women were pointlessly subject to a radical mastectomy. If the cancer had already spread beyond the breast, mastectomies were effectively useless in treating the disease. Although these gaps have been bridged, many mysteries remain unsolved. Why, for example, do cancer cells ceaselessly proliferate when normal cells do not? Cancer, in other words, remains the most elusive of diseases.

The Emperor of All Maladies documents Mukherjee’s own odyssey as a doctor struggling to understand cancer’s effects on patients and his ability to negotiate the fine line between realism and hope. In so doing, he masterfully draws the reader into the world of cancer. At what point does an oncologist know that therapeutic interventions are pointless? At what point does a patient with incurable cancer resign herself to her inevitable fate? These are never easy questions, especially given the ongoing attempts to develop more effective therapies and the role of hope in prolonging life in the face of mortal illness. Mukherjee tells the moving story of Germaine, an Alabama woman who was diagnosed in 1999 with a gastrointestinal stromal tumour, a rare form of cancer. Worse, the cancer had metastasized to her liver, lymph nodes and left lung. She was informed there were no therapies that might effectively treat the cancer and only given weeks to live. As part of a last gasp effort to fight the disease, she agreed to try Gleevec, a drug that had proved effective in treating acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The effects were immediate and remarkable: the tumours started to shrink and the cancer cells ceased spreading. Germaine achieved remission. Although the cancer did return and Germaine eventually did succumb to the disease, it wasn’t until 6 years later. She didn’t die within weeks of discovering her cancer, as her grim prognosis had promised.

Germaine’s experience is instructive. The most significant therapeutic advances in cancer treatment stem from breakthroughs in our understanding of normal and malignant human cells. Gleevec targets the proteins responsible for activating various growth signals and in so doing has been remarkably effective at negating the cancer cell’s capacity to reproduce itself. As a result, many who suffer from acute lymphoblastic leukemia especially are now in remission. Molecularly targeted therapies have been developed to treat other cancers, with similar results. The drug herceptin, for example, has been enormously successful in treating breast cancer. Yet here too, success has been tempered by the knowledge that some cancer patients grow increasingly unresponsive to targeted therapies. Remission is not always a cure.

From this perspective, cancer and our ongoing attempts to treat it should be conceived as a complex series of constantly evolving processes. As Mukherjee wisely suggests, this necessitates that we re-conceive of the ‘war on cancer,’ particularly of what constitutes ‘victory.’ Genetic mutations are the source of a disease that thrives through the reproduction and eventual spread of the genetically abnormal cells. As normal cells grow and divide, the possibility of such mutations persists. Victory, then, should not be conceived as the elimination of cancer. Instead we could reasonably declare victory over cancer when we’ve reached the point that the disease is no longer a death sentence for those afflicted with it. Indeed for various types of cancer – breast, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, – the prognosis for those suffering from it is often very good. When caught early, extended remission is often the outcome. Although the war on cancer may not be won, there is reason for hope

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