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We asked three people how cancer changed their lives. Here are their stories – and how cancer is changing because of them.

We asked three people how cancer changed their lives. Here are their stories – and how cancer is changing because of them.
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."

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3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics




116 years ago, the Pasterze glacier in the Austria's Eastern Alps was postcard perfect:

Snowy peaks. Windswept valleys. Ruddy-cheeked mountain children in lederhosen playing "Edelweiss" on the flugelhorn.

But a lot has changed since 1900.

Much of it has changed for the better! We've eradicated smallpox, Hitler is dead, and the song "Billie Jean" exists now.

On the downside, the Earth has gotten a lot hotter. A lot hotter.

The 15 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998. July 2016 was the planet's hottest month — ever.

Unsurprisingly, man-made climate change has wreaked havoc on the planet's glaciers — including the Pasterze, which is Austria's largest.

Just how much havoc are we talking about? Well...


A series of stunning photos, published in August, show just how far the glacier has receded since its heyday.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

First measured in 1851, the glacier lost half of its mass between that year and 2008.

The glacier today.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

A marker placed in 1985 shows where the edge of the glacier reached just 31 years ago. You can still see the ice sheet, but just barely, way off in the distance. In between is ... a big, muddy lake.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

The view from the glacial foot marker from 1995 — 10 years later — isn't much more encouraging.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Even in just one year, 2015, the glacier lost an astounding amount of mass — 177 feet, by some estimates.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Ice continues to melt daily, and while the dripping makes for a good photo, it's unfortunate news for planet Earth. Glacial melting is one of the three primary causes of sea-level rise.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

According to a European Environment Agency report, the average temperature in the Alps has increased 2 degrees Celsius in the last 100 years — double the global average.

Beautiful, but ominous, fissures in the glacier.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

It's not unreasonable to assume that that's why this mountain hut has been abandoned by the flugelhorn-playing children who once probably lived in it.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Is there anything we can do to stop climate change besides look at scary glacier photos?

Climate change is, unfortunately, still a robust debate in the United States as many of our elected officials refuse to acknowledge that we humans are the ones doing the changing. As of last year, that list included a whopping 49 senators. Calling them to gently persuade them otherwise would be helpful. Not voting for them if they don't change their minds would be even more so.

There is some tentative good news — the Paris Agreement signed in December 2015 commits 197 countries, including the U.S., to take steps to limit future global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. While it may be too late for the Pasterze glacier, if we really commit as a world, we might be able to stop ourselves from sinking whole countries and turning Miami into a swimming pool and stuff like that.

And who knows, with a little luck, and a little more not poisoning the sky, we just might recapture a little of that Alpine magic one day.

OK, these guys are Swiss. But who's counting?

Photo by Cristo Vlahos/Wikimedia Commons.

This article originally appeared on 3.11.17

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

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Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

Photo pulled from YouTube video

Animated short about closeted love.

After a much anticipation, the animated kids short "In a Heartbeat" was finally released on July 31, 2017.

The four-minute short film — which follows a closeted boy as he "runs the risk of being outed by his own heart after it pops out of his chest to chase down the boy of his dreams" — captivated certain corners of the internet once its trailer was released in May and instantly went viral.


The finished film is just as adorable and sweet and pure and squee-worthy as fans were hoping.

People are just totally loving it.

Like, honestly, truly adoring it.

The short is only four minutes long and completely void of narration or dialogue.

But its creators, Beth David and Esteban Bravo — who completed the project as part of their college senior thesis project — were able to invoke so manyrelatable emotions to queer fans watching at home: the helplessness of puppy love, the adolescent dread of being outed as LGBTQ, the judgmental gaze from peers when you are outed as LGBTQ, and the comfort of finally learning you're not alone.

The project's 30-second trailer tugged at heartstrings back in May, so you can imagine what a difference the full movie is making now.

"We're very touched by the response we've gotten so far and we're happy to know that our project has already had a positive impact on so many people," the creators said in May of the film's blossoming fandom. "It proves to us that there is a need and a want for media that addresses LGBT+ themes in a positive and lighthearted way."

The two hoped their film's positive reception will lead to more LGBTQ-inclusive films being produced down the line.

Fans, it seems, passionately agree:

Take four minutes out of your day and watch "In a Heartbeat" right now, below:

This article originally appeared on 07.31.17

Angelina Jordan blew everyone away with her version of 'Bohemian Rhapsody."




At Upworthy, we've shared a lot of memorable "America's Got Talent" auditions, from physics-defying dance performances to jaw-dropping magic acts to heart-wrenching singer-songwriter stories. Now we're adding Angelina Jordan's "AGT: The Champions" audition to the list because wow.

Jordan came to "AGT: The Champions" in 2020 as the winner of Norway's Got Talent, which she won in 2014 at the mere age of 7 with her impressive ability to seemingly channel Billie Holiday. For the 2020 audition, she sang Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," but a version that no one had ever heard before.

With just her Amy Winehouse-ish voice, a guitar and a piano, Jordan brought the fan-favorite Queen anthem down to a smooth, melancholy ballad that's simply riveting to listen to.


Especially considering that Jordan was only 13 years old when she did this.

Watch:

What this video doesn't show is Heidi Klum hitting the Golden Buzzer faster than you can say, "Nothing really matters to me." The judges were blown away by Jordan's performance, as were the people in the comments.

"That's a ONE in A BILLION voice right there. Just amazing," wrote one commenter.

"I am typically not a fan of songs being redone particular to such a magnitude," shared another. "They almost always fall short of the original. But to completely rearrange a song in the manner that she has, from a legend, and then make you forget about how the original even sounded because her rendition is so good is utterly amazing."

"As Freddie once said, 'Do whatever you want with my music as long as you don't make it boring.' I think he'd really like this," shared another.

Though Queen's lead vocalist Freddie Mercury is no longer with us, the band did offer words of praise for Jordan's performance, retweeting her audition video with the comment, "Wow! What a rendition of #BohemianRhapsody."

"Bohemian Rhapsody" is such an iconic song, it's hard for anyone to do a cover of it justice. But 13-year-old Angelina Jordan managed it masterfully.

Jordan would move on to the Top 10 in "AGT: The Champions," and though she didn't take home the top prize, she did impress the audience with another classic rock tune, Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." You can enjoy that performance below, and you can follow Angelina Jordan—who is now 17 and still singing her heart out—on YouTube and TikTok.

Become Angelina's patron at Patreon! https://www.patreon.com/angelinajordanThis performance on Angelina Jordan's TikTok - https://www.tiktok.com/@angelinajor...


This article originally appeared on 9.30.23

Tia Savva has an invested father.

Sadly, a lot of men go out of their way to avoid learning anything about a woman's period.

(That could be why throughout most of the United States — where the majority of lawmakers are men — feminine hygiene products are subject to sales tax.)

So we should give some love to the guys who make an effort to learn a bit about the menstrual cycle so they can help their family members when they're in desperate need of feminine hygiene products.

Personally, as a guy, the feminine hygiene aisle can be a little intimidating. There are multiple brands, styles of products, scents, absorbency levels, and they are all color-coded.

What do the colors mean?


Knowing there's a lot I don't know, I take a picture on my phone of the box I'm about to purchase and send it to my wife, asking, "Is this the right one?"

A dad in the U.K. is getting some love on social media for the hilarious way he navigated the world of feminine hygiene products while showing how much he loved his daughter in the process.

It all began when Tia Savva sent her dad to Tesco, a popular U.K. drug store, to pick up some tampons.

funny dad stories, Tia Savva, dads

Too many choices.

Tia Savva/Facebook

feminine hygiene, mal hygiene, family

Dad having a minor panic.

Tia Savva/Facebook

tampons, menstruation, comedy

Family humor.

Tia Savva/Facebook

For all the guys out there that need a solid primer on what goes on in the feminine hygiene product aisle, this quick tutorial from Mel magazine does a pretty great job.


This article originally appeared on July 2, 2019

Image from Pixabay.

Under the sea...

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The Wilderness Society


You're probably familiar with the literary classic "Moby-Dick."

But in case you're not, here's the gist: Moby Dick is the name of a huge albino sperm whale.

(Get your mind outta the gutter.)


There's this dude named Captain Ahab who really really hates the whale, and he goes absolutely bonkers in his quest to hunt and kill it, and then everything is awful and we all die unsatisfied with our shared sad existence and — oops, spoilers!


OK, technically, the narrator Ishmael survives. So it's actually a happy ending (kind of)!

whales, Moby Dick, poaching endangered species

Illustration from an early edition of Moby-Dick

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Basically, it's a famous book about revenge and obsession that was published back in 1851, and it's really, really long.

It's chock-full of beautiful passages and dense symbolism and deep thematic resonance and all those good things that earned it a top spot in the musty canon of important literature.

There's also a lot of mundane descriptions about the whaling trade as well (like, a lot). That's because it came out back when commercial whaling was still a thing we did.

conservation, ocean water conservation

A non-albino mother and baby sperm whale.

Photo by Gabriel Barathieu/Wikipedia.

In fact, humans used to hunt more than 50,000 whales each year to use for oil, meat, baleen, and oil. (Yes, I wrote oil twice.) Then, in 1946, the International Whaling Commission stepped in and said "Hey, wait a minute, guys. There's only a few handful of these majestic creatures left in the entire world, so maybe we should try to not kill them anymore?"

And even then, commercial whaling was still legal in some parts of the world until as recently as 1986.

International Whaling Commission, harpoons

Tail in the water.

Whale's tail pale ale GIF via GoPro/YouTube

And yet by some miracle, there are whales who were born before "Moby-Dick" was published that are still alive today.

What are the odds of that? Honestly it's hard to calculate since we can't exactly swim up to a bowhead and say, "Hey, how old are you?" and expect a response. (Also that's a rude question — jeez.)

Thanks to some thoughtful collaboration between researchers and traditional Inupiat whalers (who are still allowed to hunt for survival), scientists have used amino acids in the eyes of whales and harpoon fragments lodged in their carcasses to determine the age of these enormous animals — and they found at least three bowhead whales who were living prior to 1850.

Granted those are bowheads, not sperm whales like the fictional Moby Dick, (and none of them are albino, I think), but still. Pretty amazing, huh?

whale blubber, blue whales, extinction

This bowhead is presumably in adolescence, given its apparent underwater moping.

GIF via National Geographic.

This is a particularly remarkable feat considering that the entire species was dwindling near extinction.

Barring these few centenarian leviathans, most of the whales still kickin' it today are between 20 and 70 years old. That's because most whale populations were reduced to 10% or less of their numbers between the 18th and 20th centuries, thanks to a few over-eager hunters (and by a few, I mean all of them).

Today, sperm whales are considered one of the most populous species of massive marine mammals; bowheads, on the other hand, are still in trouble, despite a 20% increase in population since the mid-1980s. Makes those few elderly bowheads that much more impressive, huh?

population, Arctic, Great Australian Blight

Southern Right Whales hangin' with a paddleboarder in the Great Australian Bight.

GIF via Jaimen Hudson.

Unfortunately, just as things are looking up, these wonderful whales are in trouble once again.

We might not need to worry our real-life Captain Ahabs anymore, but our big aquatic buddies are still being threatened by industrialization — namely, from oil drilling in the Arctic and the Great Australian Bight.

In the off-chance that companies like Shell and BP manage not to spill millions of gallons of harmful crude oil into the water, the act of drilling alone is likely to maim or kill millions of animals, and the supposedly-safer sonic blasting will blow out their eardrums or worse.

This influx of industrialization also affects their migratory patterns — threatening not only the humans who depend on them, but also the entire marine ecosystem.

And I mean, c'mon — who would want to hurt this adorable face?

social responsibility, nature, extinction

BOOP.

Image from Pixabay.

Whales might be large and long-living. But they still need our help to survive.

If you want another whale to make it to his two-hundred-and-eleventy-first birthday (which you should because I hear they throw great parties), then sign this petition to protect the waters from Big Oil and other industrial threats.

I guarantee Moby Dick will appreciate it.


This article originally appeared on 11.04.15