Driven to make a difference
20 Apr 2012
Twenty one-year-old Arie Boer was diagnosed with retinoblastoma when he was just a baby. Now 20 years later he is studying physiology and his goal is to discover something important in science. Arie has kindly agreed to share his journey and how it has affected him.
I was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma when I was nine months old. Considering I was so young at the time of diagnosis and treatment, I don’t remember any of it, however it has left me a scar I will bear for the rest of my life. The cancer resulted in me losing my left eye, which a prosthetic eye now fills, and a small blind spot in my right eye.
As I said, I don’t remember the stay in hospital that I had to endure. Being virtually half blind was not easy, especially in school, where I was constantly and persistently bullied and I describe as tortured simply for being different. Luckily for me I had a strong family and friends who stuck behind me and stuck up for me against these people. This treatment and the stigma attached was the hardest part for me to deal with, as a kid not knowing why I was ridiculed, but as I got older I accepted that there are simply people that can’t resist taking a shot.
The experience of growing up has had a profound effect on me. It has made me a very defensive person, meaning I will vigorously defend myself or any people close to me if a situation arises. On the other side it has also given me a lot of drive. Because I always had to prove myself, I give everything I do everything that I have. This really impacts on my study throughout my education where every assignment in every subject I have done, I have put all the effort I can into.
I am currently studying towards a Bachelor of Science with Honours at the University of Otago, Majoring in Physiology. I will be in my 4th year this year, researching the heart attacks and the effect on nerve activity. Last year was the most difficult in university by far, with many reports having to be written and presentations given, however I have obtained skills that will allow me to interact with the worldwide scientific community. I want to discover something important in science as I told my supervisor. Some people look for fame by being painted on gossip magazines and big budget movies, but I want to discover something that will benefit human kind for good, and that is what drives me to do what I study and research.
When I complete my degree, it is most likely that I will take myself overseas as there are many opportunities abroad. Many of the scientific equipment that is on the cutting edge of what has been developed are unfortunately not available in New Zealand.
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