Looking forward to the Elon Musk of cancer care

Arthur Petrillo
Apr 2, 2018 · 4 min read

It’s been almost three years since my mom was diagnosed with a restless type of cancer that takes over the organs’ tissues, making it hard for surgeons to remove. The only solution is the stressful and debilitating chemotherapy that has been around for decades.

I was about to move from São Paulo to San Francisco when we got the bad news. She was the first one to encourage me to make the move, since she knew how awesome the opportunity could be — and has been — to my life and career.

Since then, my heart has been in both places — living a new and exciting life with my wife and new friends in San Francisco, working at the best company I could be at; and with my family in Brazil, since this is not a one person fight. And time has flown by.

Here we are at the hospital, after 45 chemo sessions, holding hands and hoping one day she will be able to live her life the way she has always been done: with a constant smile on her face, celebrating life and family. But the reality is that chemo leaves people barely healthy enough to survive its years of treatment, so drained they can see only one solution: to keep doing it.

I am lucky to be a middle-class person and I don’t recall a moment in my life when I needed to pay for healthcare since my family has always had excellent health insurance. My mom is being treated at one of the best hospitals in the world, and the team of doctors that has been with her is the best thing I could imagine. I couldn’t be more thankful to them. They have state-of-the-art resources and the smartest brains a cancer care unit can have. But that is not my point.

I can’t help thinking about how old this whole cancer industry is. How many underground articles about “the cure” I’ve read. How many interviews I saw with highly qualified scientists talking about a new cancer treatment, and how much money is made every year with a single patient. Everything seems to convey one clear message: someone, in some part of the globe, could bring happiness back not only to my family but to a whole community of people that can only count on chemotherapy to keep them moving on. The cure for cancer is real, I bet. But people are being silenced and this thought really tears me apart.

Being in the creative/tech industry for so many years forces me to make a parallel. The way things move for us is not something new: before the launch of the next big thing — from an earbud to a smart home device — the technology behind it already exists and has been exhaustively tested for years. Research takes time and I get it. It makes sense until the moment it’s used to keep people anxious and in need for the product/service to fulfill the needs of an ambitious and cruel market that only cares about numbers. This is the over-discussed Planned Obsolescence. The idea of having a piece of technology that becomes obsolete by design makes me question the essence of human evolution: discoveries that improve our lives should never be hidden, regardless of the impact it makes in someone’s pocket.

How many years did it take from the first electric car to the establishment of a whole industry based on cleaner means of transportation?

After making a large and legit amount of money combining the financial and technology sectors with PayPal, Elon Musk put his quarters on a delicate machine. He created a high-end way of transportation that is confronting expensive and established automotive companies around the world and entered one of the most violent and controversial industries: the oil circle. But he is adding his signature by making wealthy and powerful people in the finest places in the world the voice of the next electric car. It’s a top-down marketing decision. Tesla is defining the industry by who is relevant to the media — the smart, progressive and successful opinion makers. He did it so well that other companies are now re-thinking their product lines to make it an everyday choice for people, companies, and government organizations.

I am optimistic about an open source world, with shared technologies and solutions to most of our problems. Cancer care shouldn’t be different: we should find a democratic way to allow people to get the latest available treatment with no conflicts of interests. Maybe “the cure” can also come from the same type of people that are helping the automotive industry shift the paradigms by empowering a greener transport. The stories of success coming from well succeeded conscious people helped by new scientific methods would inspire the whole world. After all, cancer doesn’t choose race, gender, or place. Here is my challenge for the bravest, most powerful and most forward thinking people in Silicon Valleys across the world: please help us. Millions of families need your help giving a better life to our dearest relatives. We must beat cancer.

Arthur Petrillo

Written by

Based in London, visual designer and artist. Working at Google. Tattoo colector, wannabe photographer and music composer.

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