Relay for Life kickoff

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A doctorate in Medical Biophysics is not found lurking at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.

The degree’s trio of component words accurately describes academic demands of a challenging and complex nature. Beyond that, Embro native Michael Jensen, a guest speaker at the 2014 Tillsonburg Relay For Life campaign kickoff Thursday evening inside the Carriage House, has invested more than a few post-secondary dollars since graduating from Ingersoll DCI in 2002. His 12-year post-secondary path began at the University of Guelph, passing through to current application at Western University in London.

“I guess I’m a little longer than some of the other people,” he said. “But in general, it’s a long road.”

Jensen’s final goal is not yet realized, and there was an early, if productive detour out of straight physics, when Jensen realized there was more to life for him than helping develop a smaller, faster microchip. But he has made steady progress, and his goal is nearer to being within sight than at any time during his life.

Jensen’s life has been touched by cancer, which took both grandmothers on his paternal side when he was eight or nine, on the maternal five or six years ago. His entry into medical biophysics combined a passion for math and physics with medicine, with ultimately helping people.

“It’s challenging, but I find it very worthwhile. I enjoy the challenge.”

Jensen’s own path in a shared human battle against cancer can provide a metaphor for the war itself. It takes a lot of time, determination, hard work and money, but progress toward the ultimate goal is steadily being made.

Jensen is on the front lines of that battle given he says graduate students (PhD and Masters) tend to do a lot of the research in non-profit academic hospital settings. His ‘boss’, a professor at Western, applies for Canadian Cancer Society funding grants which generate valuable data along with material for Jensen’s doctoral dissertation.

One facet of a wide-ranging fight is utilizing medical imaging to tailor treatment to individual patients.

“Instead of giving the same thing to everyone,” which historically says Jensen, has been the approach.

Personalizing treatment by checking effectiveness, of for example, chemotherapy or radiation with medical imaging would provide a more up-to-date running treatment ‘report card’, allowing health care professionals to react more quickly to best responses to regimen. Basically, continuing what’s working and adjusting to what’s not, rather than one check-up following a full course of proscribed treatment which may or may be the most effective for that individual.

The approach, supported practically by one form of breast cancer treatment, began as theory, says Jensen.

“But it’s slowly getting there.”

Cancer is a complex foe and it can take years of small incremental steps in a bio lab or through clinical studies to pull disparate pieces together.

“We are making steady progress,” said Jensen. “But it takes a long time and a lot of money.”

Jensen and Stephanie Dorman provided an inside glimpse of one way funds raised at events including Tillsonburg’s Relay For Life are put to use to an assembled group including sponsors and team captains.

Preparations for Tillsonburg and area’s relay for life begin in earnest in November says event chair Steve Kyle, with a focus on sponsorship. Thursday’s meeting at the Carriage House provides an unofficial ‘thanks’ for those efforts, along with a kickoff for relay team captains.

“Team kits are available at Shoppers Drug Mart or RBC,” Kyle interjected.

Tillsonburg’s relay has raised over $2.2 million in its 12-year history says Kyle, looking forward to the 13th annual Friday, June 6 on Annandale School’s track and grounds. The community’s generosity never fails to astound Kyle, impressed by the cooperative compassion.

“If we didn’t have that compassion, we wouldn’t raise the money and we couldn’t fund the research.”

Sourcing silent auction items and luminary sales occupy April and May, leading up to a massive one-day event whose culmination is the result of a 70-member committee, 30 major sponsors, 100 lesser or in kind sponsors, 300 ‘day of’ volunteers – and countless participants.

“It’s an extraordinary event for a town of our size,” Kyle concluded.

 

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