Growth Factors

When I first started writing on this site, I chose the title “Growth Factors” because it held a clever dual meaning to me.

Biologically speaking, growth factors are substances such as hormones, that influence the growth of cells. We can’t exist without growth factors. Nor can we adapt to our ever changing environmental challenges. Our bodies require these molecules to engage in a million daily metabolic functions. Without growth factors you wouldn’t be able to heal after burning the roof of your mouth on a hot bite of pizza. You wouldn’t be able to learn new traffic patterns. You couldn’t regenerate red blood cells after they circulated through their normal lifespan. You wouldn’t create memories. Your heart wouldn’t beat. You simply wouldn’t exist.

Ironically, while life-sustaining, growth factors also play a significant role in cancer. Deregulation of their normal roles in health leads to uncontrolled cell growth, proliferation, and ultimately spread of tumors. While hundreds of anti-cancer drugs were, and continue to be, designed to inhibit these derailed factors or other molecular players involved in their pathways, we’ve still not cracked the code. As a veterinary oncologist, I respect growth factors for their destructive potential.

Growth factors exist outside the realm of our physical bodies. We’re under constant bombardment with input from our friends, family, co-workers and from social media and other news outlets. We rely on our senses to constantly survey our surroundings, sift through the signals, and adapt as necessary. We integrate each of these complicated messages and ultimately create different perceptions, ideas, and outcomes. As a result, we change. We change our minds, our ideals, our goals. They all are altered as a result of these external growth factors.

Growth factors work to promote or halt cellular proliferation. In health, there’s a balance between the two. In disease, excessive proliferation leads to cancer and excessive inhibition leads to inability to heal and cellular degradation. The same is true for the external factors. You might be the type to tackle challenges with immense effort and optimism. Or you could be the person who shuts down when facing difficulties. You might be a bit of both depending on circumstance.

I’ve felt tremendous pressure by my external growth factors lately and I’m unhappy with my coping mechanisms. Rather than pushing myself forward or even receding backwards, I’ve felt stagnant and stuck. Personally and professionally – each identity feels completely blocked.

When I’ve felt this way before, I’ve recognized it coincides with periods where my creative outlets are diminished to existent. This is what prompts my writing these thoughts out as I need to gain progress through this dimmed time.

The majority of my disconnect stems from inner voices/factors telling me I can’t change. A few phrases swirling around at the moment:

I can’t get back into physical shape after having a baby.

I don’t have the time to work on extra activities not related to my primary job.

I lack the talent to become a better teacher.

I’m a mediocre parent who worries too much.

I’m a bad writer.

Are moments such as this, where I’m clearly defining my frustration with inertia, the times where I begin moving again? Was I ever truly still? Or have I been ignoring tiny, insignificant and imperceptible changes occurring beneath the surface all along?

Among so many uncertainties, I’m unsure of the answer. But I think I’m ready to push through. To receive the growth factors, both positive and negative, and allow them to morph myself into something different from where I am today.

I have no specific plan for my actions, but I have made the decision to act.

Growth Factors has always been a little messy, but well-intentioned. A place for me to provide pet owners with accurate and factual information about veterinary oncology, but also where I can authentically voice myself on a variety of topics related to my professional and personal goals. External growth factors have changed who I am over the past 5 years and perhaps it’s time to change the goals of this space to better align with this newer version of myself.

I envision it growing into a place where I can provide an accurate, honest, and factual account of life as a working mother (with the added bonus of working in academia) in addition to providing accurate, honest, and factual information about veterinary oncology.

Take a few minutes to think about the growth factors in your life. Which ones are pushing you forward? Which ones are holding you back? What are you doing to respond to their influences? Leave a comment below describing your thoughts on this topic.




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