Chapter V: The Access

An Autobiography of a Cancer Cell

Chapter V: The Access

 {Access to travel and communication has been the fundamental characteristic for the growth of civilizations. One can see in this chapter a few similarities between the spread of cancer and how humans have colonized.}

Well, here I was, well settled, bustling with energy looking forward to a life of happiness forever and that was when the premonition of tragedy struck me.  Insidiously, I found something was happening. By now, my family had grown to such a large extent that even I had difficulty in knowing its size. The first thing I noticed was that our living space was getting cramped. We had not planned our growth, because we had felt there was no need to. Unlike, “the creatures” we were not bound to one another and had liberal space around us {Normal cells are bound to each other and have relationship with each other. On the other hand, the first things the cancer cells lose are their binding relationship between themselves and gain freedom to infiltrate or go elsewhere}. This reduction in freedom of space was unexpected for me. We were starting to get irritated with one another. However, we did not take serious note of this development. Also, when we were living with the principle of free for all we did not have a system of taking note of the same.

After some time, some of the original settlers in the centre of the colony started feeling suffocated and became breathless. And the number of people afflicted with this melody spread slowly, around. {Despite “pulling” separate blood vessels for themselves when the growth is fast, blood vessels get pressed resulting in blockage, pooling of blood and inefficiency in supply. It is impossible to get proper oxygen, water and nutrition reminiscent of unbridled growth of our cities}.They were forced to take rest and become inactive members. They sort of went into deep sleep or maybe it was a phase of hibernation, I thought. {Those cells which stop multiplying due to deficit oxygen are hypoxic / anoxic cells. Since they are metabolically inactive, routine treatment may not kill them and may get reactivated once the active cells are killed with the treatment. If the treatment is effective even these cells get killed resulting in cure. Today one of the strategies in increasing the cure rate of cancer is to attack these cells in a unique way}. However, the edge of the colony continued to be beehive of activity, and the business went on as usual. The colony continued to expand, unchecked. I managed to be in the forefront of activity in the edge of the colony, because of my adventurous nature. I had this sense of purpose and intense desire to achieve something breath-taking.

One day something unimaginable and heartbreaking event happened. To my dismay, some of the members in the centre of our colony died. We were naturally endowed with immortality and yet the unthinkable had happened. For the first time, in our existence we started slowing down. What was worse, this death of few members started spreading to the neighbourhood. Within no time the entire centre of the colony died. {This event is termed necrosis. They are no longer a threat to the body.} Added to this, the ones nearer to this graveyard started going to deep sleep.

We did not know what was to be done, as we had no system, no order, and no working rules for such occasions. We could only wall off the dead. We thought it would stop just at that and yet death continued to spread. That was when we started getting panicky. The need for drastic action was upon us. It dawned upon us that when we were a small colony this problem had not manifested. I decided to take a new course and conveyed this to the other family members. I detached myself from the main colony and went on an expedition to colonize elsewhere.  A few of the members were ready to accompany me. And without wasting much time we set on our voyage. {Until this stage cancer is harmless. When the cells start infiltrating for their survival, the problem starts.}

The first thing was to hack through the dense forest filled with “the creatures”. We made a passage through them and they were our source of food too. On the way new members were added to our team and our family expanded. Food was available in plenty again and we regained our freedom of space around us.

However, after some distance and a few months later we came across a barrier which I had never encountered before. {The capsule of the organs or membrane (membrane) planes in the body act as barrier to the spread of cancer for a long time.  Once the barrier breaks it is considered as micro-invasive cancer, a stage where is not visible on imaging but can be detected with a microscope.} This stopped us in our track. We were forced to take a breather and settle down. We tried several ways of breaking down the barrier and few months passed. Finally, one of the members in the team could produce a substance which was able to breach the stratum. Well, try and try until you succeed. Some of us entered the breach and stepped into the world beyond.

But what faced us when we came out of the breach was overwhelming. The view was so different than what we used to have. It was like a new world, a breath taking sight was ahead of us. We were stunned in many ways, although we did not have the time to enjoy any of that. What caught us after sometime was the most unexpected. The onslaught was upon us. It was as if one had put the hand in hornets’ nest. It was an attack of a varied kind of law enforcers that I used to encounter here and there. There was an assemblage of them now. The earlier enforces that I used to encounter were puny compared to the ones in front. Added to that, there were multitudes of them all around us. They descended on us; they hit us and we were helpless. We went helter-skelter, each for one’s own survival.  {The moment cancer cells break a barrier of basement membrane or organ capsule (membrane enveloping the organ) the cells are exposed to intense immunologic activity of the body. There are evidences that microinvasive cancers may be kept in check for very long time or may even revert to normalcy. Sometimes, cancer may just freeze in this stage. Here a person may die of a natural cause, and never suffer from the agony that accompanies the diagnosis of cancer. At this stage too body’s immunity and life style play a significant role.}

What followed was mayhem. Although we were a plenty, yet within minutes we were reduced to rubble. The fury of the attack was unstoppable. We were totally unprepared for this assault. And all my family members died in front of me. It was not only the expedition team that perished, but I could see the destruction of my people all the way back in our track. I wished that nothing should happen to my primary colony. I imagined them battling for the survival from the hunting law enforcers. It was unfortunate that we were the ones who opened the flood gate of wreckage.  I gave up and resigned myself to the foreseeable death.

Suddenly, something startling happened, which saved me and prevented total annihilation of my breed….  

My saviour came in the form of a cloud, the implication of which I did not perceive initially.  Whitish smoke started pervading the nook and corner around me {Tobacco smoke is known to suppress the immunological cells of the body.} This made the place look dim. The already confused state of my mind was compounded. It was the same cloud that would swamp my colony now and then, which in fact gave me and my colony the power and strength to grow. I had a sudden desire to return to my colony and pined for its comfort. It made me think of my foolishness in taking this perilous journey.

But what was amazing was the effect of this smoke on law enforcers. All their ferocity died down instantly and their snarling became whimpers. Yet, they were advancing on me like juggernaut.  Fortuitously something else happened, simultaneously. A dark fluid started seeping around us. {The other substances causing or complimenting the suppression of the immunity are alcohol or chemical poisons in our food & environment.} On one hand this fluid surely stifled whatever aggressiveness and activity that were left with the enforcers and on the other hand my strength was dependent on this and I recovered all my senses and bounced back to action. The smoke and the fluid that hit me made me feel like being reborn. It was the most beneficial of the series of hits that transformed me to a new found deadlier person. I shed my clothes immediately and merged into the background. {Aggressiveness of the cancer and its escape from body immunological surveillance increases in stages, in many situations. Occasionally it can be a sudden switch into most aggressive feature.} None pursued me.

I hoped that at least some in the base colony would have survived and had a strong urge to return. However, I had travelled a long way and my determination increased in moving forward with my journey. This was the time to rebuild my family and I proceeded to do that with gusto. Slowly but surely we built ourselves up. It took some time, but finally, our group re-established and the time was ripe to move on. I proceeded with my passage, along with other volunteers and as we made our way through we came across a white river. {The lymphatic channel is one of the pathways into which cancer cells infiltrate and spread to distant places. Lymph is whitish in nature.}