Last week we had the opportunity to visit a Cancer Research Centre and witness the work they are doing. This was suggested by the Worshipful Master of Javea Lodge No 40, Matthew James as it is his chosen charity for his Master’s year. It was a privilege to be able to visit the Oncology Research Department at La Fe Hospital in Valencia. We were met with great enthusiasm by Dr Jaime Font de Mora, head of the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology.
He was very pleased that we had made the time to visit and were aiming to raise money for their important research. We, ourselves, felt honoured to be given a personal insight into their work. And luckily for us perhaps, everyone spoke perfect English.
The major research for the Spanish Society of Oncology for Children is undertaken in this department, as well as specialising in Paediatric Oncology Surgery. As we all know, cancer has no boundaries, it affects both old and young. It is especially heart wrenching to see children and babies suffering from cancer. Dr Font de Mora’s team is currently working on a key project called ‘Oncology de Precision’, which involves identifying specific genetic characteristics of tumours found in children from birth to 15 years old. Analysing the DNA from tumour samples, they are aiming to identify the medication required for each patient’s individual needs, thus the correct treatment will be prescribed quickly and effectively, improving their recovery and survival rate.
We were introduced to the members of the team, all of whom were young, dedicated and highly motivated in their work. They work in small teams of 3 or 4 people in their own part of the facility, using highly sophisticated and expensive diagnostic equipment. We donned our ‘green suits’ and entered the sterile area and also we were able to witness cancer cells through a microscope and how they mutate and divide. To actually see this disease at this stage is a fascinating but sobering experience. The time, study and dedication the doctors give to their work has to be greatly admired. We felt humbled that these young people are trying their utmost to combat the biggest disease of our lifetime.
After ditching our ‘green suits’, we were invited to meet some of the young patients on the ward. The ward, by the way, was decorated like a children’s play room. Bright murals on the walls, everybody was casual and smiling and there was a separate school room so the children don’t miss any of their education. The children even have access to Wi-Fi, something which as we know, young kids today can’t do without with their computers and iPads!! Brother Matthew presented a Mason teddy to one little girl, who seemed very happy with her gift.
The doctors were obviously very caring towards their small patients but the atmosphere was kept very informal and cheerful, considering the seriousness of the situation. There is a maximum of 18 patients on the ward, each with their own room. The only children that have to be kept in isolation are those undergoing bone marrow treatments.
The aim of the Children’s Oncology Ward is to improve the children’s health so they are able to return to their family home as soon as possible and just attend as an outpatient.
Since our visit we have written to Dr Font de Mora and his colleague Dr Adela Cañete, thanking them again for allowing us to visit and see what they are doing first hand in Cancer Research. We have asked them to tell us which equipment they need and the cost. Obviously, some equipment would be too expensive for one individual lodge to provide. However, we really want to help the Cancer Research Department and await their answer. We can then make a decision on what the lodge can do to help.
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