What Killed My Son — As Visual Art

My wife recently sent me an article about an advancement in neuroblastoma research that included a photo of a neuroblastoma cell. I’ve seen neuroblastoma pictures before, but I was struck by the beauty of the disease that killed my son. The pictures of the cells are often different as the scientists are highlighting different parts and sometimes injecting dyes or using different lights to emphasize some element.

I started searching for different images and was a little struck by this image and commentary on the European Association for Cancer Research website.

Winner: Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts (CAF) Isolated from Patient with Neuroblastoma.

We are pleased to announce our February 2017 Image of the Month winner: our congratulations go to Lucia Borriello and Yves DeClerck for sending this breath-taking image of cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) isolated from a patient with neuroblastoma. We wish to thank our panel of reviewers for their help in selecting the winning image. Are you an EACR member? Do you have a scientific image you’d like to share? Please visit our Image of the Month page to find out how to submit your image.

Congratulations on the “breath-taking” photo? The image is quite beautiful, but I think the researchers let their excitement overshadow that children die from this beautiful image. I’m excited about any advances in neuroblastoma research and I think a celebration is in order every time. But this just does not sit right with me. Maybe it’s the callousness with which a deadly cell is treated. I don’t doubt the sincerity of people dedicating their lives to researching cancer, but cancer is not an abstract concept for me and many others. That “breath-taking” photo is of something that literally took the breath from my son. Maybe they could pair that image with that of a child who died from cancer, just to keep it all in perspective.

Or, maybe I’m uncomfortable with the how what killed my child can look so beautiful.

The photos are important because they are used for research, not for art. The photos are part of the process for curing children of neuroblastoma, what my son died from. If there is progress, then these photos can be work of art.

But, researchers, remember to celebrate your research not as an end in and of itself, but as a step toward saving children. The image of the month on a cancer research should be of children who are alive because of research, not what killed them.

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