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The Hamster Factor. 3/14/11

posted Mar 14, 2011, 8:12 AM by Kathryn Simpson   [ updated May 17, 2011, 8:25 AM ]
I like to be resilient. I've written here before about the demands for adaptability on humanity in general, and my own gene pool is no different. German, Irish, Native American and some Dutch (other mutt varietals thrown in for good measure, I'm sure). Each of these cultures on their own indicate peoples who have survived shifts in tide, economy, literal and figurative stature. I've been working on my family tree, piecing together the who/what/where from family Bibles, newspaper clippings, and word of mouth. Within the last year I've been relying heavily on ancestry.com and it's been very informative, too. I can see that my lineage--after arriving on the east coast like most--hopscotched around the middle west for generations. There are some paths that have disappeared somehow.... I hate to say I have ancestors that are dead ends, but I think you know what I mean. The trail has gone cold. Those are the missing "why's." But, I find those mysteries reassuring for me and everyone else  who researches distant family. For every Great-Grandpa William who seems to have sprung from the proverbial cabbage patch...years later possibly to return to same...there's a Great-Grandma Martha...back at the house/farm/land with a boatload of children to rear alone while he galavanted off to the World's Fair, never to be seen again. The tales that aren't cold mean we know there's a story of resilience and survival and adaptation. I like to think that gets passed down through generations the same as my freckles and fair skin.

So, I like to be resilient. I like to think my DNA has me pre-disposed to rolling with the punches, just like most other folks on the globe. We get our strength from wherever we can, right? And I've been keeping all that in mind while I get used to my new normal. The new routine of medication and whatnot...three injections a week for the foreseeable future. I told my pal Carolinn it should be fine because I'm not afraid of needles. Husband and I met with Jennifer the Field Nurse last week and it went really really well. I feel much better about the protocol than I did in the weeks leading up to that meeting. Forward motion!

Except there is one thing. It's not the pain, I can handle pain. It's not the side effects, I think I can handle side effects and I'll cross those bridges when I get to them. The thing is The Hamster Factor. 

I'm pretty adamant about animal testing. I'm pretty adamant about animal rights. I do not judge those who wear fur or leather or use Proctor & Gamble products. My views on the matter are personal, and I know not everyone shares them. But, I'm very particular about what goes on in my home in relation to the issue. Imagine my dismay when I read in the prescribing information about my treatment that the genetic vehicle used is certain specific cells from Chinese Hamsters. 

Chinese Hamster cells. 

Yes, I know. It's funny. Yuck it up. Hilarious. 

Har-dee-har-har. 

No, I don't know how they do it. No, I don't know from whence these hamster cells came. Neither does Jennifer the Field Nurse. I do know the irony makes me sick to my stomach. The wee-ist cutest critter.... My first real pet, actually. And now my new drug of necessity. 

Puke. 

I tried to explain to Jennifer and Husband how distraught I am...that I would consider foregoing the treatment to avoid what I perceive to be a potential animal cruelty and personal hypocrisy. They both looked at me like I could be nuts. A side effect perhaps? But no...hamsters eat seeds and carrots, not nuts. If it were squirrel cells that would make more sense. 

I digress.

So what to do? Yes, I know animal testing has allowed for amazing advances in medical therapies and treatments and etcetera. I am not judging people who rely on similar protocols. To each his and her own. It would appear we don't get to have much say in which miraculous medical development can save our lives or, at the very least, keep us from falling down every time we look left. And I will continue asking questions and trying to understand how all this works in a research lab environment. I would truly drop the drug if I thought I could bear the look on Husband's face when I gave him the news. I can take a lot, but I don't think I can take that. 

I was talking to Sofie Cat about this. Venting, really, because she's my sounding board during the day. It was a ridiculous conversation. For one thing, I know almost nothing about chemistry, let alone DNA or pharmaceutical science. I told her I don't think hamsters are suspended in little vats Matrix-style, milked for valuable gene parts, but at this point nothing would surprise me. Nothing has gone the way I thought it would. Just like nothing ended up the way Great-Grandma Martha thought it would. But...her genetic hand-me-downs insist I can adapt. I can move forward. Like most everyone else before and since.

Sofie did her best to console. Of course, she may have misunderstood and now thinks I'm bringing a hamster home for her to play with. But, you know, at least one of us is excited.

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