Staying Alive 3: Signs of life

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Visualising Cancer has its challenges. It is both abstract and hard to look at. A taboo and a spectacle. These challenges are apparent when thinking of the effects the various types of cancer have on the bodies they affect, when thinking about what the treatment of the disease really looks like, but also, when making sure people will be able to find their way, as Marissa Mika remembers from her early days as a researcher at the Uganda Cancer Institute:

 

Below, photo made on July 31st, 2007 in the Administration block of the UCI

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I am still here in the UK. Looking at the image Andrea just shared with me. Signs stacked up at the wall, telling us to fight cancer. A moment of calm before a month of activities begin at the Uganda Cancer Institute to mark fifty years. 

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I went back through my old typed field notes today. I wanted to remember my impressions from the first day in June 2010 when I visited the UCI. I remember there was only one sign I could find pointing me up the hill to the Lymphoma Treatment Cancer and Solid Tumor Center on Old Mulago’s campus. Although I gave myself plenty of time, I got lost in the maze of Mulago’s wards and hallways. I arrived a few minutes late to meet Dr. Jackson Orem for the first time. Hot and sweaty. I remember Irene offered me a bottle of water. 

 

 

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Seven years later. The notes must be stored on another computer. The handwritten notebooks are in deep storage. My desk is covered with pink sticky notes, stacks of books on medicine and history in Africa, file folders with interview transcripts, chopped up typed field notes, a well thumbed copy of Staying Alive. A moment of preparatory chaos before the airport on Friday night. Knowing that on Sunday morning there will be many signs pointing to the cancer hospital on top of the Hill. 

 

 

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Above, three slides made at Mulago Hospital ca. 1970. From Dr. John Ziegler’s collection of slides

Below, photograph made at the now fully signposted UCI, July 18th 2017

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Please consider joining us for the opening / book launch of Staying Alive, or visit the exhibition in the week of August 19th – 26th

 

 

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