I love to learn about science. I entered academia 20 years ago and have yet to quench my thirst and curiosity for the unknown. Many types of questions that I had growing up beside my grandparents’ dairy farm in rural Canada, have remained the same. Why do the animals do what they do? How do the plants move? Where does that intense smell come from when it rains? What is beyond the stars? Writing about science allows me to share the instrumental role it has played in shaping my life.
How can science betray you, let alone kill your dream? The understanding that is needed to unlock the puzzles of our world are waiting to be found. We only need to ask the right questions to find them. It doesn’t matter if it is life on other planets or saving lives on this planet, the scientific method can provide answers to all of them. However, what happens when the answers don’t come soon enough?
Two years ago my friend, partner and wife of 18 years died from cystic fibrosis (CF). Allison’s death was an unexpected and devastating loss. It is impossible to put into words the overwhelming emotional explosion that ensued. My family, friends and neighbours supported me in ways I can never repay. Memories from the first four weeks are rather spotty but I do remember when autumn arrived and it was time for our daughter to begin a new year of school. I guess the routine was welcomed. These routines felt familiar and vaguely recognizable but at the same time foreign and conflicting.
As life began to adjust to a functional new normal, I felt dysfunctional and that my life was completely wrong. It wasn’t suppose to turn out this way. In Allison’s lifetime, scientific discoveries had doubled the life expectancy for people with CF to over 50 years. Nevertheless, a strong, compassionate and fiery mother, daughter, sister and partner was dead at 41. Some forms of CF have cures. But not hers. Everyday the lives of millions of people are improved by new medications and therapeutic advancements. In the end, none of them could help her lungs to clear the carbon dioxide from her blood. Why could science not help us? I had dedicated my entire professional life to unlocking these puzzles and in the end, the life we had dreamed of living as a family was dead. I was betrayed by science.
How could I continue to write passionately about science after this perfidy? I had no mental space to process what I was feeling. Betrayal, disloyalty and even deceitful treachery. In retrospect my feelings for science were not isolated but mixed into the jumbled mess of my grief. While not logical, it is convenient to target something specific with your frustrations. For the next year my mental space was busy surviving and learning to be a supportive single parent. It wasn’t until recently that I began to re-examine my relationship with writing about science.
Writing allows me to communicate my passions to others. I am passionate about many things but when the biggest passion of my life died, I found myself ill equipped to express any of my other passions. I’m beginning to navigate this path and look forward to speaking here about my past, present and future passions.