After 14 bloody years of covering conflict for The New York Times, C.J. Chivers had established himself as one of the foremost war reporters of his generation. And then he decided to come home.
Stephanie Lee, a 36-year-old Iraq War widow with two children is diagnosed with terminal colon cancer and told she has just a few years to live. A group of pioneering cancer specialists at the Icahn Institute at Mount Sinai use genetic data to figure out alternative treatments to “the standard of care” that could give her her life back:
His name was Ross Cagan. He did not work for Schadt; he worked as a professor at Sinai. But they met every week, and after Schadt called on October 1 to tell Cagan about Stephanie Lee, he listened to Cagan’s idea for her. A month earlier, Cagan had started doing something that he said “had never been done before.” He started creating “personalized flies” for cancer patients. He took the mutations that scientists like Schadt had revealed and loaded them into flies, essentially giving the flies the same cancer that the patient had. Then he treated them. “Why a fly? You can do this in a fly. You can capture the complexities of the tumor.”
A day after Cagan spoke with Schadt, Stephanie became the fifth person in the world to have a fly built in her image—or, rather, in the image of her cancer. In an ideal world, Cagan would have created as complex a creature as possible, burdening the fly with at least ten mutations. He gave Stephanie’s fly three, because “Stephanie is on the shorter course. We’re making the fly as complex as possible given her time.” By October 11, however, Cagan already had “one possible drug suggestion for her”—or one possible combination of drugs, since he always tests at least two at a time. “In this center, the FDA will not allow us to put a novel drug in patient. To get a novel drug into a patient, we have to do a novel combination of [known] drugs. We have to use novel drug combinations that people have never seen before.”
The writer on the man who became his father figure:
“A few years ago I was working on a book project, and the deadline was crushing me. I hadn’t given myself enough time to write, and I was panicking, so I left Jessica and the kids in New York and moved out to Princeton with Dieter for a month, to race the clock. I quickly established a routine of working day and night, and without a word being said, Dieter made himself my twenty-four-hour valet. Every morning as I awoke, he’d bring me a cup of coffee. ‘Would you like to see the menu?’ he’d ask. ‘Or shall we just have the chef whip up something for you?’ If I fell asleep on the couch, he would cover me with a blanket. It was the fall, and every morning he and I would take a walk in the changing colors, and we would talk through the day’s writing, and every couple days, Dieter would read pages for me and tell me what he thought.
“He knew that I’d given up on my own father, and he looked on me with a kindness for which I was not at all prepared, that it seemed he had been waiting for just this moment to bestow. Sometimes it was almost too much for me to bear. As he made us dinner, he would ask me about my life and say such encouraging things with love and without qualification, and I would look at him and think, Are you real?“
[Not single-page] A difficult life with a father remembered through his favorite words and phrases:
“He never once found comfortable shoes, and when he’d come home from the plant after a double overtime, the searing pain in his feet would have him whimpering like a child. Swornin’ to goodness! was his pain expression. Was it his horrible feet?
“His maniacal mother, my grandmother, Letha (we called her ‘Lethal’), taught him that ‘if it isn’t perfect, its not worth doing,’ thus paralyzing my father for life. It was she who dragged my father, aged eight, to a hotel in downtown Baton Rouge, busted into a room, and showed him his father in bed with another woman. ‘Look at your father,’ she said. Was it Lethal?
“Or are unhappy people born unhappy?
“Would he have been the way he was if he had never had children? Did I turn my father into a monster?”
Five men, one room, and a national crisis. The Esquire Commission to Balance the Federal Budget — Bob Packwood, John Danforth, Bill Bradley, Gary Hart and Lawrence O’Donnell — will now report its findings.
The Minnesota governor, whom many expect to run for president in 2012, on bailouts, health care, whether Obama is a socialist, and where Republicans go from here
In a sprawling discussion of his past and our common future, the former president compares his administration’s early years with Obama’s and talks about what he believes — in health care and next year’s midterms — is about to happen