PhD Chronicles: Part One

This year, I became a student again; went back to the University for a doctorate degree. And the journey has an interesting one, I must say.

I never envisaged that enormous stress and intrigue accompany the program. No pain, no gain right? Abeggi! The stress is on another level; it is nothing compared to anything I have been exposed to.

Prior to starting in January, I read a lot of articles on the mental health of PhD Students. I had always wondered why there were loads of articles on this but months down the line, I completely understand now.

I never thought that the PhD would end up being a dual degree – yes! it automatically comes with a degree in self understanding. I have come to understand that there are certain things about myself that I never thought and/or knew were there. Maybe these things have always been there and I turned a blind eye to them.

The first thing that I noticed was my apparent lack of social skills or conversation confidence. And I need this skill more than anything else to get to the level I am aiming for. Without this skill under my belt, I will not be able to charm/engage/learn from others, progress in my career, network, sweep the woman of my dreams off her feet, and most importantly, get ahead in life – become a billionaire dawg!

In his book, Mastery, Robert Greene identified social intelligence as one of prerequisites for success and mastery in our individual endeavours. Without social intelligence, we lack the ability to read others, and thence misread their intentions and become emotionally drained by the endless political intrigues and battles. Without social intelligence, one won’t be able to sustain success attained because this involves consistent interaction with others to learn from them, network with them, and sometimes even be able to work well within a group or workplace.

This year, I have fallen out with a lot of people including my landlady, co-workers and housemates. And this triggered some self-reflection. When you fall out with a lot of people, something is amiss so I needed to identify and rectify it.

You see, the reason I never knew that I had this problem was the fact that I have always seen myself as a “people’s person“. I get along with people so easily and make so much effort not to be a nosy parker or have others up in my business (see my previous post on this). On my day, I can light up the room and make everyone laugh.

I questioned myself a lot this year and it didn’t help my case. Like many other PhD newbies, I struggled with the impostor syndrome, and it left me holding onto what’s left of my self confidence. This created self defeating thoughts in my head; that I am not good enough.

Unfortunately, this translated to other parts of my life without me even noticing it. I couldn’t get my research story across – and this made me feel completely inadequate. A friend and an ex, once told me that my self-confidence level was too high, and because of that I come of as arrogant, proud and condescending.

I couldn’t believe that there would ever come a time that I would feel this insecure about myself. I mean even in my weakness, I believed there was some sort of strength in there. Maybe, I was wrong.

But the first and most important step towards solving a problem is identifying the problem. So once I did, I set out to solve it. First thing I did was to delete all the social media apps on my phone (except whatsapp), turned to literature to know and sound more confident about my research, and talk to people randomly (about anything) on the bus, pubs/clubs, at work etc complimenting and hugging them along the way.

I am going to do this for the rest of the year and review how far I’ve gone and level of progress I’ve made after that. I will certainly share my chronicles with you as I go on this journey.

Wish me luck.

What do you think about social and conversation confidence? Do you have or lack it? Please leave a comment in the comment section.

Marijuana and Cancer

Mounting evidence shows ‘cannabinoids’ in marijuana slow cancer growth, inhibit formation of new blood cells that feed a tumor, and help manage pain, fatigue, nausea, and other side effects.

Cristina Sanchez, a young biologist at Complutense University in Madrid, was studying cell metabolism when she noticed something peculiar. She had been screening brain cancer cells because they grow faster than normal cell lines and thus are useful for research purposes. But the cancer cells died each time they were exposed to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive ingredient of marijuana.

Instead of gaining insight into how cells function, Sanchez had stumbled upon the anti-cancer properties of THC. In 1998, she reported in a European biochemistry journal that THC “induces apoptosis [cell death] in C6 glioma cells,” an aggressive form of brain cancer. 

Subsequent peer-reviewed studies in several countries would show that THC and other marijuana-derived compounds, known as “cannabinoids,” are effective not only for cancer-symptom management (nausea, pain, loss of appetite, fatigue), they also confer a direct antitumoral effect. 

A team of Spanish scientists led by Manuel Guzman conducted the first clinical trial assessing the antitumoral action of THC on human beings. Guzman administered pure THC via a catheter into the tumors of nine hospitalized patients with glioblastoma, who had failed to respond to standard brain-cancer therapies. The results were published in 2006 in the British Journal of Pharmacology: THC treatment was associated with significantly reduced tumor cell proliferation in every test subject. 

Around the same time, Harvard University scientists reported that THC slows tumor growth in common lung cancer and “significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread.” What’s more, like a heat-seeking missile, THC selectively targets and destroys tumor cells while leaving healthy cells unscathed. Conventional chemotherapy drugs, by contrast, are highly toxic; they indiscriminately damage the brain and body.

There is mounting evidence, according to a report in Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, that cannabinoids “represent a new class of anticancer drugs that retard cancer growth, inhibit angiogenesis [the formation of new blood cells that feed a tumor] and the metastatic spreading of cancer cells.”

Dr. Sean McAllister, a scientist at the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, has been studying cannabinoid compounds for 10 years in a quest to develop new therapeutic interventions for various cancers. Backed by grants from the National Institute of Health (and with a license from the DEA), McAllister discovered that cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive component of the marijuana plant, is a potent inhibitor of breast cancer cell proliferation, metastasis, and tumor growth. 

In 2007, McAllister published a detailed account of how cannabidiol kills breast cancer cells and destroys malignant tumors by switching off expression of the ID-1 gene, a protein that appears to play a major role as a cancer cell conductor.   

The ID-1 gene is active during human embryonic development, after which it turns off and stays off. But in breast cancer and several other types of metastatic cancer, the ID-1 gene becomes active again, causing malignant cells to invade and metastasize. “Dozens of aggressive cancers express this gene,” explains McAllister. He postulates that CBD, by virtue of its ability to silence ID-1 expression, could be a breakthrough anti-cancer medication. 

“Cannabidiol offers hope of a non-toxic therapy that could treat aggressive forms of cancer without any of the painful side effects of chemotherapy,” says McAllister, who is seeking support to conduct clinical trials with the marijuana compound on breast cancer patients.

McAllister’s lab also is analyzing how CBD works in combination with first-line chemotherapy agents. His research shows that cannabidiol, a potent antitumoral compound in its own right, acts synergistically with various anti-cancer pharmaceuticals, enhancing their impact while cutting the toxic dosage necessary for maximum effect. 

Breast cancer cells killed by CBD on right compared to untreated breast cancer cells on left. (Courtesy Pacific Medical Center)

“Cannabidiol offers hope of a non-toxic therapy that could treat aggressive forms of cancer without any of the painful side effects of chemotherapy.
Investigators at St. George’s University in London observed a similar pattern with THC, which magnified the effectiveness of conventional antileukemia therapies in preclinical studies. THC and cannabidiol both induce apoptosis in leukemic cell lines. 

At the annual summer conference of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, held this year in Freiburg, Germany, 300 scientists from around the world discussed their latest findings, which are pointing the way toward novel treatment strategies for cancer and other degenerative diseases. Italian investigators described CBD as “the most efficacious inducer of apoptosis” in prostate cancer. Ditto for cannabidiol and colon cancer, according to British researchers at Lancaster University. 

Within the medical science community, the discovery that cannabinoids have anti-tumoral properties is increasingly recognized as a seminal advancement in cancer therapeutics.

And We Came To CrossRoads by Judie

Two peas in a pod!!!

We both turned instinctively, partly because we knew the voice and partly because we knew she was referring to us. We waited for N to join us and we all walked down the path to our hostels together, she marvelled at how close we both were, always together at all times and I knew she was silently wishing she could be a part of us.

Dee and I had attended senior secondary school together but we never exchanged words once, lo and behold she was the first person I met on getting into the University and we hugged like long lost friends, we were glad to have a found a friendly face in that no man’s land. Let me take out time to describe Dee.

Dee is a blessed child, she is beautiful, intelligent and talented, she could draw, she could sing, she could dance, she could even DJ!!! And best of all she is honest. While I on the other hand, I’m the awkward round glasses-wearing loyal to- a -fault friend but I never begrudged Dee her blessings, she was my friend and I loved her.

We helped each other through trying times, we laughed and cried together and it seemed like a friendship made in heaven, we talked about everything and anything, we were like kindred spirits in different bodies, we loved each other like sisters and kept in touch like lovers during school breaks until it happened.

I called Dee to find out how she was faring without me in school and her sister said “Dee left for church with N”, to say I was surprised is an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, we were Christians, good girls but basically church wasn’t our “thing” especially not on a Wednesday!!! In all fairness, she tried to drag me to church but I wasn’t having it, I’d attend services but I really wasn’t feeling it, I’d go with her and then turn around to sulk and throw tantrums so eventually I stopped attending and nobody invited me anymore. More and more Dee and N found things to do together and more and more I was excluded from the group, we came to a crossroads; I couldn’t betray myself and attend services I wasn’t enjoying and Dee couldn’t find a middle ground with me and to make matters worse, I changed schools and then I was all but forgotten.

I could load a thousand five hundred recharge card to call Dee but we wouldn’t even begin to know what to say to each other, we are no longer two peas in a pod as my co-pea had found another pea, five years down line she replaced that pea with another pea but I had moved on, cos I realized my original co-pea had always been right there beside me despite the distance, despite the disagreements, the neglects et al but I didn’t see it cos I was blinded.

My new co-pea has shown me durability, steadfast love, honesty and above all consistency. I love her so and her name is O+.

Talent

I’ve always wanted to play football in one of the big leagues and show the world the talent God gave to me.

People who’ve known me for years still can’t believe I didn’t play professionally. Allow me to blow my own horn; I am blessed with the gift. I can play as a playmaker, striker or winger. I am tremendously skillful with both feet, have a flair for defence-splitting passes and a hawk eye for goal.

Everybody in my family supported this dream of mine except my dad. My dad is a very intelligent, meticulous and articulate man thus I trust his opinions and thoughts. The moment I knew he didn’t give his consent, my heart sank because I believe the man die!

He said “How can you, my son be a professional footballer? Mba nu! You are more intelligent than that. You must be educated. What would you do when you retire from the game at 30/35?”

He had a very serious point. Most footballers call time on their career between the ages of 30 and 39. You know what they say, life begins at 40 so you see where he’s already looking at. If I retire at 30 without education, I could become a liability to other members of the family.

My dad always maintained education doesn’t make one rich but gives you wealth of knowledge and removes the scales of ignorance from your eyes. He believed footballers are womanizers, who lavish their money on girls, cars and other irrelevant things because they lack educational exposure.

My late uncle was an ex-Green Eagle and my in-law, Christian Obodo used to play for the Super Eagles. In my late uncle’s case, his career was cut short by a nagging knee injury and my dad said to me…”My son, if you have a career ending injury like your uncle, what would you do with your life?” I couldn’t utter a word.

I kept on nursing my ambition to lock horns with the stars I watch every week on television, I sent my video clips to some clubs, most notably Manchester United and Real Madrid wearing their colours in the video clips. I even proceeded to write SAT with my friends Ababa & El Rey which I passed and got admission to study Economics at Memorial University of Newfoundland, UCLA or University of Illinois but my dad didn’t budge. The coach of University of Illinois Men’s soccer team at the time, Ben Massena tried to pull the deal through…for where? UK and Ireland (University of Loughborough to study Chemical Engineering) came calling…zilch! Then my dad asked me one question that if I answer it correctly I could go play wherever I want. He asked “what would you do with the money you will make?” Huh, did I hear him correctly? Who you dey ask that one? I mean I was 15/16 at the time and of course, I couldn’t answer that question. I was speechless and numb.

Parents often pressurize their kids into choosing things they don’t want like filling Medicine and Surgery, Law, Enginnering or any other professional course on their JAMB forms for one particular reason or the other (could be selfish or not). That’s why some of these kids end up failing because they have no interest in the course or are afraid of failing & disappointing their parents.

Don’t get me wrong, our parents love us and they want the best for us but what they fail to understand is that God gave you that talent you have for a reason.

All they have to do is support and encourage the child’s dreams and ambitions and help him/her develop that talent. When they do, the child will definitely do exceedingly well. I’m yet to see a person who failed to bring to fruition his dreams, goals and ambitions when he/she had the backing of the parents.

For instance, look at Lionel Messi, the man who every football lover believes is a Martian, was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency at the age of 11. Argentine perennial champions, River Plate backed out on offering him a deal because they had no money to foot his medical bills. Then came Barcelona with an escape route for the Argentine imp, offering to pay his medical bills only if Messi signed for their academy (La Masia). The father, Jorge agreed and resigned from his job as a factory steel worker and migrated to Barcelona to be with his son.

Today, he’s won everything winnable except the World Cup. He has been world footballer of the year thrice at just 24 and has 21 winners medal with club and country including a myriad of individual honours.

If you have a talent, nurture it and put it to great use. If you are a parent, help your child discover his/her talent, aid and support the development of this God-given talent.

What’s your talent?