The Perks of Being Married to a Cancer Scientist

A big thanks to Kaitlyn from Plain and Simple Joys for taking over the blog today in the next Perks of Being Married to My Spouse post!

One of the first things that impressed me about Sam when we began to get acquainted was his compassion for others. So it makes sense, that as a cancer scientist, he is devoting his life to helping others! I couldn't see him being satisfied in a career that served any other purpose. He received his B.S. in Molecular Biology and, after five years of grad school, he was awarded his Ph.D. in Cancer Biology. He is currently completing a postdoctoral fellowship combined with an M.S. in Biomedical Informatics (which is basically the merging of biological studies and computer programming). The "real job" light at the end of the tunnel is getting awfully close! It's been a long road, his career is incredibly demanding, and supporting a family of five on a student income has taken some serious creativity, but there are also some amazing things that have come about as a result of his position as a cancer scientist!

He's Medically Literate

I can't tell you how many times we have been experiencing medical issues and Sam has gone directly to the raw research for answers. This has been enormously helpful! Just recently, one of our sons was prescribed some medication for a small issue he was having. Sam looked up the studies and learned that it was linked to cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's. We quickly stopped using the medication and started using other means to treat the problem. He's also been able to look up various medications to see if they are actually safe during pregnancy, and he's been in a position to refer several friends to existing clinical trials he is aware of when their loved ones are diagnosed with cancer.

He Know How to Analyze Problems

This ability may be part of what drove him to the scientific field, but there is no doubt that his ability to critically evaluate situations and form solid conclusions has been increased as a result of his education. This benefit carries over to every aspect of life, from household repairs to major life decisions to effect parenting and disciplining strategies.

It Is Intellectually Stimulating

I love knowing that Sam is constantly learning and is faced with new challenges and information every day. But his job isn't only intellectually stimulating for him--it is for me, too! After a busy day mothering our three little boys, it is refreshing to learn more about his work. I love seeing his passion as he launches into explanations about his projects. He is an incredible teacher, and I really enjoy learning more about biology and the fascinating mechanisms cancer cells possess as he patiently helps me understand what he does.

It Brings the Satisfaction of Making a Real-World Difference

When Sam was choosing an emphasis to study in graduate school, he decided to study breast cancer. His cousin, a mother of three young children, had just been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and when he thought about cancer ripping families apart by taking the lives of mothers, he had a great desire to do something about it. Right after our second son was born, a nurse came in to take care of me. She asked about Sam's job, and throughout the conversation we learned that she was a cancer survivor and was taking the exact drug Sam was currently studying! He was studying how cancer becomes resistant to that drug. Because drug resistance is usually what ends up bringing cancer out of remission and ultimately ending a life, as she completed her work she told him, "Keep up the good work...we're counting on you!" Although scientific research is often frustrating and high-impact discoveries are rare, it is satisfying for both of us to know that he is devoting his career to working to improve the lives of others.

Sam has a very rigorous schedule--right now he leaves the house at 5:00 am and returns home around 6:00 pm. His evenings are a mixture of family time and continued homework or research, and he works six days per week and most holidays. At times it has been easy to dwell on the hard things about his career. But even with the challenges, I consider myself amazingly fortunate to be married to a cancer scientist!