Showing 111 - 120 of 228 annotations tagged with the keyword "Humor and Illness/Disability"

Mom's Cancer

Fies, Brian

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Summary:

This extraordinary graphic work began its life as a Web comic, posted anonymously, tracing in image and word the story of a son, his sisters and their mother who was diagnosed with a brain tumor, metastatic from her lung.  This comic caught on, and news of it was passed by email and link from reader to reader. About a year later, the author, Brian Fies, was presented the Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic. The entire sequence has now been published in a small, wonderful hardback book that will fit into a lab coat pocket.
 
Fies has managed to capture, in word and graphic panels, the thousand emotions and moments that swirl about a family when cancer changes their lives. He shows us the small, personal gestures and thoughts that we look back upon--how he "didn't lose any sleep" (3) when his mom first fell ill; how his mother both denied the severity of her illness and, at the same time, fell into the abyss of medical examination, radiation, chemotherapy; how he and his sisters assumed various roles in their mother's care and, soon, morphed into "superpowers," each defending his or her own territory (41-44).

Most amazing is how Fies exposes, in honest and poignant visuals, the many points of view of illness--his mother's, his siblings', his own, even the physicians'. His portrayal of how the medical system both confuses, abandons and supports his mother is alone worth the price of the book (39-40). We watch his mother, through his "cartoons," as she moves deeper and deeper into the world of illness, and we see the author's own anger in response to this loss.

He lashes out at smokers (pp 55-56), perfectly portrays the ever-smiling doctor (48-49), captures the odd suspension of a transient ischemic attack (TIA) (68-70), and lets us walk the tightrope of treatment alongside his mother (59-61). He also cleverly interweaves the back-story of his mother's youth, marriage and divorce, his childhood, and a vignette of the sickness and death of a favorite uncle, one whose dying prophesy impacted Fies's life (73-77). The moment when his mother truly understands the severity of her prognosis (94) is stunning.

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Hard Laughter

Lamott, Anne

Last Updated: Aug-23-2006
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The narrator, Jennifer, is a young, eccentric, struggling writer who lives in a small northern California coastal town full of even more eccentric individuals. Her father, Wallace, a kind and generous intellectual, is diagnosed with a brain tumor and has to undergo surgery and postoperative radiation therapy. It is a story of a family dealing with the rage, grief, anxiety and sudden changes in everyone’s lives when a family member has a serious illness. This is a family knit well with love, tenderness, alcohol, and lots of humor (often black and exceedingly funny)--the diagnosis brings the family and small circle of friends even closer together.

The writing shifts easily between the specifics of observed details to general philosophizing about life and death. Despite the horror and uncertainty, Wallace notes: "I still believe that life is supposed to be good, and my life as a cancer patient can be good, lived one day at a time, and at some point it may be determined that I am no longer a cancer patient, and my life will be better for this scare we’re having. We’re all on borrowed time anyway, and it’s good to be reminded."

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First, You Cry, excerpt from

Rollin, Betty

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

In First, You Cry, an autobiography by Betty Rollin, a well-to-do television broadcaster adjusts to the loss of a breast from cancer. The author uses humor to deal with and recount her loss as well as her anger, as she slowly begins to adjust. This excerpt deals with the author’s fixation on finding the right breast prosthesis.

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A Doctor in Spite of Himself

Molière

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This is another Molière fabliau on the practice of medicine in his 17th Century culture. Sganarelle, the woodcutter turned doctor in spite of himself, is the object of a joke orchestrated by his wife Martine. She determines to punish him for his bad behavior toward her by setting him up as a learned, albeit somewhat eccentric, physician.

Falling for her bait, the stewards of the rich landowner, Geronte, implore Sganarelle to come to the rescue of their master’s daughter, who has become unable to speak. The woodcutter-turned-doctor begins to play the game, and through a series of happenstances and ruses, solves the enigma of the girl’s disability, comes upon a solution, and, in the process, determines that perhaps doctoring is more salutary than cutting faggots.

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The surgeon Jack McKee (William Hurt) carries on an outwardly successful practice while treating his patients with aggressive sarcasm and general disrespect. "There is a danger in becoming too involved with your patients," he warns his residents, reminding them of the surgeon’s credo: "Get in, fix it, get out." Then McKee himself is diagnosed with cancer of the vocal chords, and the doctor discovers patienthood. The process is enormously uncomfortable for him, as he experiences a sharp decline in autonomy and everything that goes with it, and he begins to develop some empathy for those he has always scorned.

Particularly inspiring are several encounters with a coldly professional specialist and a platonic friendship with a young cancer patient named June (Elizabeth Perkins) who is dying because her doctors failed to diagnose her brain tumor. By the end of the film, Dr. McKee is both recovered and converted, and in the last scene is requiring his residents to spend 72 hours as hospital patients as part of their medical training.

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Dialogues with Madwomen

Light, Allie

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This documentary presents a pastiche of illness narratives, the stories of seven women (including the filmmaker and the associate producer) who have struggled with mental illness, including depression, bipolar disorder, and multiple personality disorder. Intercut with the interviews are reenactments of key events in the women? lives; vivid depictions of sometimes frightening, sometimes exhilarating mental states experienced by the women; films and still photographs from the womens' childhoods, and archival film footage. In the process of exploring their illnesses and recoveries, the women discuss experiences that hurt them (rape, misdiagnoses, racism) as well as those that helped them heal (creativity, caring, therapists, and spirituality).

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Visual Arts

Genre: Digital art

Summary:

A smiling giantess of a woman fills the self-portrait. Her form is too large for the picture, and consequently her colorful wings and part of one antenna are cut off by the confines of the frame. Abundant bright colors and meticulous patterning give the artwork a buoyant, joyful feel similar to a church stained glass. In the far distance, past an impossibly aquamarine sea, stands a solitary mountain flanked by swirling clouds, its tip stretching up to just touch the top edge of the frame.

At the bottom right corner of the image are two figures: one, a bearded man who stands looking up at the flying woman; two, a young child--apparently a boy--with his hands behind his head, splayed out on a blanket and looking up. A long cord runs from the center of the flying woman’s neck down to the right hand of the man below.

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Epiphany

Sams, Ferrol

Last Updated: May-08-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Novellas)

Summary:

Three novellas by a master storyteller. For the title story, see the separate entry in this database (Epiphany). "Harmony Ain't Easy" is a tale in which Dr. and Mrs. Sams (he retains his own name here) get stranded when their car is disabled on a country road, thanks to Dr. Sams's bull-headedness. After a warmly humorous series of reverses, they are finally saved.

In the last story, "Relative and Absolute," aged Mr. McEachern is approached by three high school students who want to interview him for their oral history project. They ask him questions about living conditions and race relations in their county when he was young. During the series of interviews, as he tells them anecdote after anecdote heavy with homey wisdom, the old man and the adolescents learn to like and respect each other.

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Epiphany

Sams, Ferrol

Last Updated: May-08-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

The story consists of a series of Dr. Mark Goddard's dictated office notes regarding the care of his patient Gregry McHune, interspersed with the narrator's description of these physician-patient interactions. McHune first presents as a standard case of high blood pressure; however, in subsequent visits the man tells his harrowing story.

Goddard learns that his patient was unjustly jailed for killing a black man in self-defense. McHune tells him about racism in the penitentiary and his fight for survival, both in prison and later. Eventually McHune and his family are hounded out of town by the son of the man he killed.

Through all these losses, McHune maintains his sense of humor and easy-going integrity. Meanwhile, the elderly Dr. Goddard is repeatedly harrangued by the clinic administrator (a vacuous young man) for including extraneous details and poetic language in his dictations. As time goes on, and he is transformed by his relationship with McHune, Goddard includes more and more poetry in his office notes.

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Wishbone Dance

Downie, Glen

Last Updated: Apr-24-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Subtitled "New and Selected Medical Poems," this volume includes poems on illness and healing from Downie's three previous collections, along with several new poems. A longer piece called "Learning Curve Journal" serves as a framework for the book.

Beginning with the desperate voice he hears on his first night as a "suicide line" volunteer, the poet reveals the shape of his own medical learning curve, moving poem by poem from "Orientation" through the realm of "Patient Teaching" and "Teaching Rounds" to "Pronouncing Death." Among the many strong poems in this collection are "Diagnosis: Heart Failure," "Louise," "Sudden Infant Death," "Wishbone," "Living with Cancer," and "Ron and Don."

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