Showing 1 - 10 of 224 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn
Summary:This collection of 150 sonnets takes us through the journey from the writer’s wife’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s, eventually complicated by dementia and overmedication, to her death and his early days of grieving. Married for over 40 years and close companions, their successive separations deal new blows as they happen: She goes into skilled nursing care, gets lost in delusions, and becomes more frail and erratic, finally succumbs after a fall and a short period in a coma. The writer draws on biblical metaphors and threads memories of their earlier life together in fleeting images so that the reader is left to infer from glimpses a rich and happy marriage that, he reflects, prepared them—but not enough—for this going.
Summary:Dr. Monika Renz’s work with dying patients is unusual if not unique in the way she appropriates and applies insights from Jungian depth psychology, practices available in patients’ faith traditions, and musically guided meditation to invite and support the spiritual experiences that so often come, bidden or unbidden, near the end of life. An experienced oncologist, Dr. Renz offers carefully amassed data to support her advocacy of focused practices of spiritual care as a dimension of palliative care, but is also quite comfortable with the fact that “neither the frequency nor the visible effects of experiences of the transcendent prove that such experience is an expression of grace” because “unverifiability is intrinsic to grace.” Still, her long experience leads her to assert not only that “grace” can be a useful, practical, operative word for what professional caregivers may witness and mediate but also that affirmation and support of patients’ spiritual, religious, or transcendent experiences in the course of dying can amplify and multiply moments of grace, which manifest as sudden, deep peace in the very midst of pain, profound acceptance, openness to reconciliations, or significant awakenings from torpor that allow needed moments of closure with loved ones. Describing herself as “an open-minded religious person and a practicing Christian,” she reminds readers that God is a loanword, whose basic form in Germanic was gaudam, a neutral participle. Depending on the Indo-Germanic root, the word means “the called upon” or “the one sacrificed to . . . .” Openness to the divine in both patients and caregivers, Dr. Renz argues, can and does make end-of-life care a shared journey of discovery and offer everyone involved a valuable reminder that medicine is practiced, always, at the threshold of mystery.
Summary:These poems are not a cancer chronicle, but the experience of living with cancer is threaded through them in a way that illustrates beautifully how awareness of illness may permeate daily life, but is foregrounded and backgrounded, reshaped and revisited in shifting ways as it takes its course. They encompass moments in family life, moments in the hospital, moments of spiritual longing and awareness of loss. Together they offer a record of accommodation, acclimation, and complex acceptance.
Summary:Several threads tie together this ambitious, beautifully digressive reflection on eros and logos in the experience of illness and the conduct of medicine and health care, which takes into account what a complex striation of cultural legacies, social and political pressures, and beliefs go into both. Framing his reflections on the role of unknowing, altered states, inexplicable events, desire, hope, love, and mystery in illness and healing is a fragmented, poignant narrative of Morris’s own experience of watching his wife succumb to the ravages of early Alzheimer’s.
Summary:Based on the true story of a girl whose single mother is paralyzed by polio, this novel offers readers an unusual opportunity to reflect on particular challenges of living with a person with disability--in this case a person of remarkable resourcefulness and determination. Berg richly develops this story of how mother, daughter, and longtime caregiver/babysitter cope with the practical demands of daily life, the social pressures of growing up in a small gossipy Southern town in the civil rights era, the isolation of immobility, and the facts of ignorance and petty cruelty toward those who live on the margins. Told from the daughter's point of view, including her bouts of impatience, frustration, bewilderment, and anxiety for her mother and the ways her own adolescent concerns sometimes eclipse larger matters that loom in the world outside, the story has the psychological nuance and poignant authenticity I've come to expect of Berg's novels.
Summary:On a stormy night in 1968 a retired, widowed schoolteacher in rural Pennsylvania opens her door to find a young couple, she white, he African American, wrapped in blankets, drenched, and silent. Letting them in changes her life. They have escaped together from a nearby mental institution most locals simply call "The School." The young woman has recently given birth. When Martha lets them in, her life changes forever. Supervisors from "the School" show up at the door, the young man escapes, and the young woman, memorably beautiful, is taken back into custody. The only words she is able to speak out of what we learn has been a years-long silence are "Hide her." Thus she leaves her newborn baby to be raised by a stranger. The remaining chapters span more than forty years in the stories of these people, linked by fate and love and the brutalities of an unreformed system that incarcerated, neglected, and not infrequently abused people who were often misdiagnosed. Homan, the young man who loved Lynnie, the beautiful girl from the institution, was deaf, not retarded. Lynnie was simply "slow," but a gifted artist who recorded many of the events of her life in drawings she shared only with the one attendant who valued and loved her. Though her pregnancy resulted from being raped by a staff member, the deaf man longs to protect her and care for the baby. Years separate them; Homan eventually learns signing; Lynnie's sister befriends her and an exposé results in the closure of the institution. Over those years Lynnie and Homan witness much cultural change in treatment of people like them who were once systematically excluded. They find social identities that once would have been entirely unavailable to them. And eventually, after literal and figurative journeys of discovery, they rediscover each other.
Summary:Frank Drum, 13, and his younger brother Jake are catapulted into adulthood the summer of 1961 in their small Minnesota town as they become involved in investigation of a series of violent deaths. Their father, a Methodist minister, and their mother, a singer and musician, can’t protect them from knowing more than children perhaps should know about suicide, mental illness, and unprovoked violence. The story is Frank’s retrospective, 40 years later, on that summer and its lasting impact on their family, including what he and his brother learned about the complicated ways people are driven to violence and the equally complicated range of ways people respond to violence and loss—grief, anger, depression, and sometimes slow and discerning forgiveness.
Summary:The aim of these reflections on uncertainty in medicine is not to discredit evidence-based medicine or to incite suspicion of the careful and caring processes by which most clinicians arrive at the advice they give. Rather it is to change conversations among practitioners and between them and their patients in such a way as to raise everyone’s tolerance for the inevitable ambiguities and uncertainties we live with. If the public were more aware of the basic rules of mathematical probabilities, how statisticians understand the term “significance,” and of how much changes when one new variable is taken into account—when a new medication with multiple possible side-effects is added to the mix, for instance—they might, Hatch argues, be less inclined to insist on specific predictions. He goes on to suggest that there is something to be gained from the challenge of living without the solid ground of assurances. When we recognize the need to make decisions with incomplete information (a condition that seems, after all, to be our common lot) we may refocus on the moment we’re in and see its peculiar possibilities. Changing the conversation requires a critical look at medical education which, Hatch observes, “measures a certain type of knowledge essential to medical practice, but it consequently engenders a conception of medicine best described as overly certain . . . .”
Summary:This memoir of a life in medicine takes the writer from St. Louis to a Navajo reservation to Central America to the east coast and from urban hospitals to ill-equipped rural clinics. It offers a wide range of reflections on encounters with patients that widen and deepen his sense of calling and understanding of what it means to do healing work. He learns to listen to tribal elders, to what children communicate without words, to worried parents, and to his own intuition while calling on all the skills he acquired in a rigorous medical education. Always drawn to writing, Volck takes his writing work (and play) as seriously as his medical practice, and muses on the role of writing in the medical life as he goes along.
Summary:The book offers a detailed account by one of the nation’s leading cancer researchers of developments in chemotherapy over the past several decades, as well as the recent history of surgical and radiation treatments in the “war on cancer”—a term he resisted at first but finally embraced with full understanding of its implications. The narrative touches on many of the writer’s own struggles over economic, political, and moral implications of what a NYT reviewer described as a “take-no-prisoners” approach to cure. He also includes stories about disagreements with other researchers that give some insight into the acrimony that is part of high-stakes science. At the NIH and later as head of the National Cancer Institute, DeVita faced many decisions about distribution of resources, how much to put patients at risk, and whom to include in clinical trials. He provides his own point of view on those controversies frankly. Not much mention is made of the causes of cancer, of nutritional or other complementary approaches, or the environmental factors in the spread of cancer. The strong focus on the book is on the development of chemotherapeutic treatments that have succeeded in raising survival rates, though few current statistics are cited.