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By Kathy, age 14, 8th grade, Chiddix Junior High School, Normal, IL, USA
"Impossible." The word echoed in Wren's mind as she drove into the 'reserved parking' of Clinicare Hospital. Daniel Oguro, her loving but somewhat discerning husband, had tried to discourage her idea for the fissioning of cancer cells. As each cell was split, its original effect would be reversed to cure the disease nearly instantly. Even though Daniel seemed to be set against the idea, Wren knew it had to work.
Her heels clicking on the tile, she walked unwaveringly toward the research lab. She seemed sure of herself, but inside Wren started to be doubtful. All of her life people had been telling her how women could never stand up against men, how they would always have to settle for second best. "This is my chance," she realized, "to prove how wrong they were."
The door squeaked as she pushed it open, only to greet Ian's round, furious face. He was one of the other three researchers in medical science at Clinicare, and the most aggravating. "How could you forget?" he bellowed. "Our culture of amoebic dysentery was left in the dry-ice chamber overnight, because of you!" He thrust a small transparent cylinder in her face. Her heart sinking, Wren saw shriveled gray dust in place of where their growing culture should have been.
"Oh, no," she gasped. Had another failure been set on her shoulders? Glancing around the lab helplessly, her eye caught the red of a discarded petri dish growing gray fuzz. Stepping over quickly, Wren reached for it and held up the dish triumphantly. "See? There is a bit of living culture on this dish I was working with yesterday!" Her smile trembled under the enormous strain of trying to convince herself.
"We might as well try it, since there is no other hope," Ian grumbled to himself. Feeling hurt and rejected only momentarily, Wren refused to be discouraged. She thought, "Now no one appreciates me, but as soon as cancer is cured they will treat me with respect."
That night, a tiny fuse inside her brain caught up with a growing spark and started to burn.
Wren's green eyes followed the beam of light crystals as her heart swelled with hope. Gingerly, she removed her protective mask and gazed intently through the sheet of glass. Hardly daring to believe it, she gasped, "It works!" The microscopic cells, divided three times each, had to be severed at an exact angle. They swelled, and once the dominant part of the cell was twice as big as the recessive part, the recessive side was neutralized. Right before Wren's eyes, her hard work was paying off immensely. "This will sweep the world," she thought.
As soon as her formula and procedure were documented in her log and the lab door securely locked, Wren began to take action. Her first move was to notify the head of her department, Lawrence Degen. "Why, of course you have," he murmured, smiling. "I'm sure the cure for cancer is fissioning cells."
Infuriated, Wren stared at his calm, mocking face. "My process splits the cancer-causing lymphoids, Dr. Degen. I saw and have documented an amazing discovery. I promise you its success."
Suddenly Degen's eyes began to gleam. "Yes. I'll call up the research team immediately. They will all be instructed to memorize every detail of your procedure. We have found the cure at last!"
His motive hit Wren between the eyes. "We. Who do you think you are?" she uttered, barely audible. "This is my brainchild. My whole being has been put into finding a cancer cure. A cure, Dr. Degen, is to help mankind, for the people. Not to make one person rich or famous." Though the man continued to stutter, Wren heard nothing as she rose and left his office.
In bed that night, Wren felt somehow discontented. "What am I missing?" she whispered to Daniel, even though he could not hear. "Everything seems so perfect…too perfect." It was evident she would not sleep, so she pulled back her dark brown hair, dressed silently, and tiptoed downstairs to her laboratory. Halfway down the narrow steps, Wren detected a rustling noise. "Of course! I still have to test the fissioning on someone with the disease." She listened to the lab animals stirring in their pens. She usually tested her hypotheses on them, but they had not been used for the lymphoid experiment-yet. As if this was something she did every day, Wren carefully set up the necessary equipment to infect a rat with cancer.
Using animals for human benefit had always bothered Wren, but she reasoned that from now on if any animals came down with cancer she could cure them in an instant. She chose a healthy white rat. Meticulously she took its pulse, lung capacity, platelet level, and vital signs. Under an impulse, Wren gave it the injection and placed the body under her glass sheet. The adrenaline rushing in her veins, she seemed to watch herself as if it were someone else's long fingers that reached forward, and flicked a switch. In an instant the beam of crystal light worked its magic once again, over and over, to every healthy cancer cell in the rat's body. Although this took only seconds, sleep was starting to dominate Wren. Her last thoughts were: "This is the moment in which I will be determined a genius or a failure."
Awakened by the sound of footsteps, Wren realized with a jolt that she was in the lab and the sun was rising. "Are you down there, Wren?" Daniel's voice called to her. "Do you need any help? It's 7:00."
"Yes, I am. Thanks for the offer, but I'm almost finished. I'll be up in a second," she called groggily, lying through her teeth.
Clearing her eyes, she focused on the fissioning machine. "This can not be possible." She saw the rat, limp and dead. "How could this have happened?" And then she knew. The machine had malfunctioned without someone to guide it, and it was obvious that it had not finished the job. When all the cancer cells are not fixed with one crystal beam, the machine shuts off. The rat's light wounds would have been viciously attacked by the remaining cells to kill it instantly.
"We had it specifically programmed to run until no more cells could be detected," Wren thought, confused. The program must have been tampered with through the central computer system that Clinicare's staff worked on. Her mind swam, dizzy with noise and thought.
Daniel burst into the room and shook her shoulders hard. "Turn it off! Don't you hear the alarm?" Mechanically the same hand stretched forward and flicked the switch, off. Right away her mind started to clear, as if a fog was lifting and the sun peeked from behind a cloud. "Of course. The light beams, which control the angle of the intercision, give off a gas to penetrate the skin without cutting it," Wren explained to herself. "Daniel, listen to me. Go to my lab at Clinicare and pretend to pack away all of my supplies. If the log on my desk seems to have been moved, put this one in its place," she handed him a blank notebook. "Go now. I have a plan!"
The cancer-curing process was fresh in Wren's mind as she preformed it the third time. This time three rats were used, one healthy as a control, one cured immediately, and one cured after four hours. In the meantime, Wren thought, as the first rat was successful, "Where is Daniel? The timer had been working right on schedule. Something must have happened."
Wham! The opening lab door collided with Daniel as Dr. Lawrence Degen rushed through it. "What are you doing in there?" Daniel asked accusingly. Trying to come up with an excuse, Degen looked around nervously.
"I was running for my life!" he said, "The crystal beam gives off a deadly gas! Don't go in!"
Daniel saw through this lie in an instant. "How do you know about the crystal beam? Why were you in Wren's lab?" his voice asked dangerously, "She was keeping it a secret." With that he charged into the room, only to see everything just as Wren had left it. Except the notebook.
As he surveyed the room, Degen had been running away with Wren's log. "The cure is her discovery," Daniel called down the hall, "It is her success, not yours."
Dr. Degen had turned down a concealed passage, gloating. But wait. In the room next to his personal office, the phone was ringing shrilly. Listening intently, he heard a woman's voice on the extension. Excited.
Wren notified the Head of Medical Science, Dr. Margaret Vinton, about her experiment and its success. Elated by the news, Vinton rushed to Wren's home laboratory to learn the amazing process. Wren painstakingly taught it to her, and right when Vinton was trying it out for herself, Daniel burst in. He was anxious about the loss of Wren's Clinicare lab. "No need to worry," Wren said with a laugh, "I wrote it in Japanese."
So Wren Oguro became famous for her cancer cure. Elected Head of Medical Research at Clinicare, she was in a partnership with Dr. Vinton. But the best part was, as Wren stated, "I found the cure, which is more than enough, but now everyone knows I was able to do it.
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Last revised: 9th June 1999