|Chapter 1. Proud Flesh
The auditorium seemed cavernous as the overhead lights dimmed to black. The hematologist pulled the projection screen down with a force intended to catch the attention of the Navy interns gathering for yet another class at St. Albans Hospital. Suddenly an arc lamp shot a beam of light across the darkness. There, projected on the screen, were the brilliantly stained cancer cells of the bone marrow. But the screen couldn't hold them and they overflowed onto the walls and poured out onto the floor. At that moment on a winter day in 1955, something happened that touched my inner being. I had recognized something in that visualization of the cancer cell that could be understood viscerally from the inside out. This visual event brought back memories of my father, a general practitioner, and X-rays with dim shadows I didn't understand. He would show me the dark sheets of X-ray film, and say things like "She's so young" or "He doesn't deserve this." I guess I was the nearest soul, and he needed someone to talk to. I held on to the dim memories, yet when I decided to redirect my life the decision surprised me. I remember sitting in the kitchen of my new house in Farmingdale, Long Island. My wife, Hoda, had just finished making curtains for the windows and the sun was streaming in. I felt a glow within me that matched the light outside. I knew at that moment that I would do cancer research. It seemed that the visual power, the identity of the disease, had been made clear to me as a symbolic event, an electrical event in my perception of who I was, though I still don't know why.