Thursday, December 07, 2006

The tradition goes on.....



I want to tell you a story about the gentleman in my photo challenge page for December 6th. His name is Charles Beer and he is the most amazing person I've ever met. Not only does he inspire but he's kind, generous and has had a life full of tragedy, adventure, hard work and inspiring success!

Charles is from Leigh, Dorset, England where he grew up. The village is small and when he was old enough he was sent to boarding school with his brother. His father died when he was 11 years old and he & his brother were very close to their mother. They always went on holiday together and visited with her when they could. His mother died in a car accident in the 70's and his brother died in the 80's. He is not married, nor has he ever been and has no children. He has dedicated his life to science and the pursuit of finding a cure for Cancer.

Charles went to Oxford University and received his doctorate in Bio Chemistry and later moved to London where he worked at a prominent Cancer research centre.

WWII side tracked his work, he was sent to Wales and worked as a Chemist with the British Army developing & testing various bombs.

After the war he returned to his job in London where after a time he was approached by Sir Robert Robinson to see if he'd be interested in working on a post doctorate fellowship at the Sloan Kettering Institute in New York for one year. Charles packed his bags and off he went to New York City.

Towards the end of that year in New York City he was asked if he'd like to work at the University of Western Ontario in Canada with Dr. Collip and Dr. Noble in their Cancer Research Centre. He also had an offer to go to New Zealand but he opted to move to Canada. (lucky for us!) So off he went to UWO!

During his time at UWO Dr. Beer discovered and isolated a drug called Vinblastine from the Vinca Plant. Over a period of time the drug was tested, with great success, patented and is still used today. Vinblastine is a chemotherapy agent used to help cancer patients. Particularly those with Hodgkins disease. Imagine the magnitude of this discovery and its use over the past 40 years that has helped so many people.

He moved to Vancouver BC to work at the University of British Columbia with Dr. Noble. Dr. Noble had left UWO and asked Dr. Beer to join him a couple of years later. While at UBC he was a Professor of Bio Chemistry and a cancer research scientist. He 'officially' retired from the university but continued to work as a research scientist at the BC Cancer Agency with Dr. Peter Gout.

It was here at the BC Cancer Agency that they collaborated and discovered something called the NB2 Limphoma progression line. They were able to isolate the progression line and created a transporter system using various approved drugs which is used to today in the treatment of Limphoma, breast cancer and prostate cancer patients. The NB2 transporter system slows down the progression of early detected cancers.

12 years ago he was knocked down by a car while leaving the BC Cancer Agency's cafeteria and spent several months in hospital and rehabilitation. The seriousness of his head injuries from this accident caused him to be legally blind.

Did he give up! not a chance! When I met Dr. Beer 12 years ago he was still working at the agency with Dr. Gout. His disability did not stop him! Special equipment from the CNIB enabled him to continue his work, he is a great mentor to students and research doctors at the BC Cancer Agency. He reviews scientific papers, attends lectures, offers advice/guidance and is a pure scientist through and through!

He was always an avid climber and photographer. He even climbed the Matterhorn!! He spent most of his holidays in Switzerland and Austria. He's travelled the world and has been to countless conferences lecturing about cancer research and his work. He has a special camera that enables him to still take photos.

He has been inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame for his discovery of Vinblastine and has also received the Order of Canada for his significant contribution to science which has bettered the lives of Canadians and people all over the world. He has worked with and is friends with Scientific Nobel Prize winners all over the world.

Each year he and I have a holiday decorating tradition. We decorate his apartment and trim the tree. We've had this tradition for 12 years! and it's one that we both cherish. He's a part of my family and will spend Christmas Eve with us. Christmas Day he spends with a long time friend and colleague and the same for Boxing Day! He has a large extended family of friends who care for him deeply.

Charles just turned 91 in November, he looks great for his age and even though he's got a visual impairment... he's willing to try almost anything!

That's it in a nutshell... much more to tell... but you'll have to wait for the book to be published to find out more about his amazing person!

2 comments:

Breeze said...

WOW! What an amazing story and a truly amazing man.
You should definetly count him as one of your blessings.

Jan said...

Wow!! What a story! I'm a little behind on blog reading. Love all of your pages!!! Good luck with the unpacking!!!