Whats your Cancer?

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This is not about medicine but that’s a start.

The Genesis

About a year or so ago, I was talking to my friend who is, incidentally (and I’ll explain why little later), a doctor. He’s one of the few people I know who is truly in love with what he’s doing. He, which unfortuantely unlike many in India, is studying medicine and specialising further in the field because he really wants to help people and save lives. Not for any status, or the potential money that he can earn down the line — but because he just wants to commit to doing this and he’s great at it.

I admire what he does and is trying to do. We used to talk every now and then about how there is severe shortage of good doctors where they’re needed the most. He really wants to do something which can really impact people on a large scale. He wants to maybe teach more people to be good doctors or make tech which can help treat, diagnose and record emergency patients for better chances of survival — but there are just too many patients coming in everyday and there isn’t time for that because, what about their lives? Interesting.

The Afterthought

He and most doctors in his hospital see & treat on an average of 40 patients a day depending on the department and shift time. Lets do some math.

1 doctor on an average is treating —

  • 40 patients a day working 6 days a week is 960 people a month.
  • 11,520 people a year.
  • ~403,200 people in a career spanning 35+ years.
  • ~.005% of the world population
    (lower when you adjust for population growth over the time frame)

Not too bad right?

Now, what if he were to spend that same time in finding the cure for Cancer. Lets look again

  • WHO estimated that in 2012, 14 Million new cases of Cancer were reported
  • 8.2 Million deaths in 2012
  • Annual cancer cases will rise from 14 million in 2012 to 22 within the next 2 decades
  • ~0.32%, and more, of the world population

If your true calling is to help people on a large scale and you are fully commited to the cause either way, delay gratification and dedicate yourself to finding the Cure for Cancer and see the result compound over the existence of humanity, no?

Yes, the chances of not succeeding are very high. Yes, what about the 400 thousand people who’s life you could have saved or made better instead. But is it not worth fighting for? Is it not a war won than small battles which are ok to win or lose at times?

The Goal

I was traveling with a few friends recently and met an old school buddy of mine. He left a high paying job in engineering because it wasnt fulfilling enough and didnt bring about the change he wanted to see. He’s since been involved with relief work in Tanzania, Nepal among other places. He had commited fully to doing this and spends time rehabilitating communities with an organisation he’s invovled in. They help people with shelter, food, education and creating livelihood post natural disasters and more.

We got talking and I was reminded of my doctor friend. I narrated the previous conversation to him and my thoughts on that. This got him thinking as well.

You see, both were passionate about helping people. But neither of them had found their Cancer yet. Maybe it occured to them, maybe it didnt. But they both seemed to agree that finding the Cancer and hence the Cure would be far more fulfilling that being passionate about helping people. Its the Meta problem to go after which is more specifc but encompasses what one truly wants to do.

Does this mean they stop doing what they’re doing now and soul search for finding their Cancer? Hell no! Finding your Cancer involves being subconsciously aware that you’re looking out for it. You continue to now look and execute all your daily, monthly tasks and goals by constantly seeking out the question- is this the Cancer I want to find the cure for?

It can take weeks, months or even many years till you find what that is. Maybe it comes to you when you experience some incident, have a conversation or just while taking a shower. But till then, you keep at it — with your passion, work and life.

And then you find it. You find your Cancer. You now know, that you are going to channelize all the resources you have towards finding that Cure. It’s not going to be easy- heck, its probably the hardest thing you would have done till date. But knowing that there is the best kind of light at the end of this tunnel, you will get up every morning and pursue it like there is no tomorrow. Only you have the energy to find that Cure. That Cancer keeps you awake at night. That Cure will go down in history. That Cure, is worth doing everything for.

Find your Cancer. Find the Cure.

Whats your Cancer? was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.