Showing 151 - 160 of 258 annotations tagged with the keyword "Illness Narrative/Pathography"

My Breast

Wadler, Joyce

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

One morning in the shower Joyce Wadler, "a journalist, forty-four, Jewish, never married," discovers a lump in her left breast. In this brief, bright, and very readable account, Wadler describes what happened next, taking us through medical examination, diagnosis, and successful lumpectomy and chemotherapy.

But this is much more than a simple patient’s story. For one thing, Wadler is an intrepid researcher, and we learn a good deal about breast cancer and the often agonizing therapeutic choices its victims face. For another, she does not separate her medical adventure from the rest of her life, which includes a day job as a writer for People magazine, a book project, a semi-functional relationship, and a Jewish mother.

Finally, Wadler uses her ironic-sardonic sense of humor to great advantage--remarking, for instance, that through her post-diagnosis impulse to live in the present and not worry about her lover’s monogamy, cancer had made her "the dream girl of every uncommitted man in Manhattan"!

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The Mastectomy Poems

Ostriker, Alicia Suskin

Last Updated: Aug-31-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poems (Sequence)

Summary:

This series of 12 related poems constitutes the final section of Ostriker’s collection, The Crack in Everything. In the first poem, the mammogram positive and her surgery scheduled, the poet crosses "The Bridge" to the hospital. In "The Gurney" she goes under. "Riddle: Post Op" begins: "A-tisket a-tasket / I’m out of my casket . . . . " The poet teases us by asking what the secret is "underneath my squares of gauze." The answer: "Guess what it is / It’s nothing."

Subsequent poems include a lament over "What Was Lost," "Wintering," "Healing," and an "Epilogue: Nevertheless." In the wonderful "Years of Girlhood (for My Students)," Ostriker begins: "All the years of girlhood we wait for them. / Impatient to catch up, to have the power / Inside our sweaters to replace our mother." But in the end, a year later, the poet is well again and tells her friends, "I’m fine, I say, I’m great, I’m clean. / The bookbag on my back, I have to run." ("Epilogue: Nevertheless").

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Theater

Genre: Theater

Summary:

Actor Clark Middleton wrote this autobiographical dramatic monologue in collaboration with Robert Knopf. Stricken with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at age four, Middleton enacts his early painful experience -- painful physically and emotionally. He takes us through an adolescence complicated by physical difference, his interaction with medical professionals over the years, and his craving to become an actor. Middleton struggles with the medical establishment, the pain and humor of coming-of-age, and ultimate self acceptance. Eventually, he was able to have both hip replacement surgery and a career in theater and film. The play is funny, poignant, and instructive.

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A Leg to Stand On

Sacks, Oliver

Last Updated: Aug-30-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

This is a story of injury in the midst of exuberant good health, followed by a progressively darkening journey. The writer experiences a period of isolation from normal life by his hospitalization, isolation from a part of his body by neurosensory damage to the injured leg, isolation from the security of medical colleagues by their insensitivity to his anguish. Sacks reaches a psychological nadir before beginning his return. He chronicles, retrospectively, the stages of this trip. As in the classical journey myths, the traveler returns with new insight and an altered vision of the meaning of disease.

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Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This posthumously published short (132 pp) collection is by a former New York Times book reviewer and essayist who was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in 1989 and who died the following year. Broyard responded to his illness by writing about the experience. The book is comprised of six parts:

Part 1: Intoxicated by My Illness

Part 2: Toward a Literature of Illness

Part 3: The Patient Examines the Doctor

Part 4: A Style for Death: Journal Notes, May-September,1990

Part 5: The Literature of Death

Part 6: What the Cystoscope Said

Parts 1, 2 and 5 appeared in slightly different form in the New York Times between 1981 and 1990.

Parts 2 and 3 are in part from a talk Mr. Broyard gave at the Univ. of Chicago Medical School in April 1990. Part 6 is a short story written by Broyard in 1954 about his father’s death.

Mr. Broyard had long been fascinated with death and dying, before his prostatic cancer, publishing "What the Cystoscope Said" in 1954, some 35 years before his own diagnosis. It is as though he had been preparing for what he knew would be his finest work. Always an engaging essayist and reviewer, Mr. Broyard here offers what he did best--a discursive (in the best sense) soliloquy on disease, suffering, the majesty of the educated, reflective person with illness--all amplified with widely ranging withdrawals from the broad literary bank account one would expect of a professional reader and reviewer: one reads about personal fate vis-à-vis D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love; one reads, as one can read nowhere else, about illness, dying and sexuality and its relevance to Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.

Part 1, Intoxicated By My Illness, is a personal statement about the effect of this illness on Broyard’s attitude and is rich with his own and others’ literary sense of how he should and did react to it. Part 2, written later than Part 5, deals with literature and illness as opposed to the emphasis on death in Part 5. Within Part 2 are references to Susan Sontag, Norman Cousins and Siegel, among other students of this subject. It is interesting to compare the more powerful and personal and moving appeal of the later writings on illness (Part 2) to the more abstract, critical ruminations on death (Part 5) at a time when, in fact, Part 5 was a literary exercise. Part 2 is written with the pen of the heart.

Part 3 is a wonderful account of Broyard’s first meeting with his personal physician. While Broyard analyzes this man, he reflects on what he would like in his ideal doctor. Part 4 is a brief (7 pages) collection of short diary entries reminiscent of Dag Hammarskjöld’s Markings. Part 5 includes essays on death and dying in literature and what these books, e.g., Robert Kastenbaum’s Between Life and Death and David Hendin’s Death as a Fact of Life and Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death, have to offer us.

Part 6 is a short story about his father’s death, the son’s sexual escapades and the relationship between the two. Clearly sex, death and their nexus have long been on Broyard’s mind. This is a welcome reflection and is of interest more as it compares to Broyard’s later writings on the subject, especially in Part 2, than for its intrinsic worth as a short story.

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Horizontal Woman

Berger, Suzanne

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

This book is an autobiographical account of an abrupt and painful injury that completely transforms the author’s life. Berger in 1985 was a healthy woman who enjoyed ice skating and canoeing, a published poet, wife, and mother of a toddler. She bent over one day to pick up her daughter and felt a tearing "within the thickness of flesh, moving in seconds across the base of the spine." No longer able to run, walk, or even sit, she is forced into a life spent lying down.

Hers is now a world of boundaries and barriers--physical, psychological, and societal. The book chronicles her struggle to parent her child (they make gingerbread creatures lying down on the kitchen floor), to relate to her husband (she has to deal with the constant feeling of being the recipient of his care), to live with pain, and to regain her mobility.

Because hers is not a visible injury and because she must frequently lie down in public places or use her carry-along lawn chair, she suffers the stares and scrutiny of people who cannot pigeon-hole her into a tidy handicapped-wheelchair category. After seven years of physical therapy (she calls her therapists "angels of attempted repair ") she is able to walk and drive, though she is still limited in activity and lives in fear of re-injury.

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In the Shadow of Memory

Skloot, Floyd

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

I used to be able to think. My brain’s circuits were all connected . . . I had a memory and an intuition that I could trust. So begins Floyd Skloot’s memoir of living his life with "a scatter of white spots like bubbles" in his brain, as a result of a viral illness in 1988 that led to chronic fatigue syndrome and persistent brain damage. The first section ("Gray Area") consists of essays that re-create a texture of mistaken words and memory lapses, as well as the author’s creativity in discovering ways to minimize or bypass disability in his daily life. The temporal vector of this section begins with the onset of illness; continues through his marriage to Beverly and their settling on a hilltop in Oregon; and ends with an idyllic stay on Achill Island off the western coast of Ireland.

The second section draws us back in time to "The Family Story," a series of stories about childhood. In "Kismet," which begins section 3, the author returns to a description of his post-illness experience, in this case to his fateful final visit with an older brother, who is dying of diabetes and kidney failure. Later, in "A Measure of Acceptance," he tells of his encounter with a Social Security psychiatrist, whose task is to determine whether Floyd Skloot is "really" sick. The Social Security Administration provides one measure of acceptance; but the author creates a more important measure of acceptance for himself: "I can say that I’ve become adept at being brain damaged. It’s not that my symptoms have gone away: I still try to dice a stalk of celery with a carrot instead of a knife . . . Along the way, though, I’ve learned to manage my encounters with the world." (p. 196)

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

This unique "miscellany" of prose from journals and essays, poems, stories, music, paintings (reproduced in black and white), drawings, and cartoons illustrates countless ways that medicine and the arts, in tandem, "stretch the imagination, deepen the sympathy . . . enrich the perceptions" and give sheer, unadulterated pleasure. Organized by Robin Downie, renowned Professor Emeritus of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University, the anthology is grouped in eight categories: "The Way We Are," "Disease and Mental Illness," "Doctors and Psychiatrists," "Nurses and Patients," "Healing," "Last Things," "Research," and "Ethics and Purpose."

Excerpts include the classic lore [Charles Lamb’s essay, "The Convalescent"; Florence Nightingale’s diary, "Notes on Nursing"; W. H. Auden’s poem, Musee des Beaux Arts (see this database); Theodore Roethke’s poem, In a Dark Time (see this database); C. S. Lewis’s journal, A Grief Observed (see this database); Sir Luke Fildes’s painting, The Doctor (see this database)] and refreshingly new nuggets from John Wisdom’s radio talk, "What is There in Horse-Racing" ("For a game of croquet is not merely a matter of getting balls through hoops, anymore than a conversation is a matter of getting noises out of a larynx,"); Robert Pirsig’s treatise, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"; physician Roy Calne’s tender sketches of his own patients; composer Richard Wagner’s letter, "Biscuits as Therapy"; Janice Galloway’s novel, "The Trick is to Keep Breathing"; and expressions by patients and artists who happen to be patients of their particular illness experiences.

Lest "commentary be intrusive," except as brief introduction to each section, Downie deliberately omitted them, placing illustrations and extracts so as to provide commentary on one another. (Readers cannot help but be stimulated, however, to rearrange and create their own juxtapositions.)

The section on "Healing" considers not only the expected operations, spiritual healing, traditional cures, music and art as therapy, but also "spells, hope, and mothers." Richard Asher’s essay on why medical journals are so dull (British Medical Journal 23 Aug. 1958), or on whether or not baldness is psychological, and the comic strips of Posy Simmonds (the double entendres of "Medical Precautions," the "Minor Operation" burlesque on Shakespeare’s "All the Ward’s a Stage,") remind us yet again that birthing, aging, illness and dying are not pathological events or mere medical processes, and that the arts and humanities are bountiful reservoirs of moral discourse, inspiration, and renewal.

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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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Father and Son

Gosse, Edmund

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Victorian critic and poet Edmund Gosse was the child of respected zoologist Philip Gosse, a minister within the Plymouth Brethren, a fundamentalist evangelical sect. This memoir of Gosse’s childhood and young adulthood details his upbringing by parents whose faith and literal approach to Scripture directed all their domestic practices.

It details the older Gosse’s agony as he struggles to reconcile his scientific vocation with his religious faith in the face of the hefty challenges posed by Chambers, Lyell and Darwin’s mid-century hypotheses about the age of the earth and the diversity of its species.

Edmund’s own agony as he realizes his inability to fulfill his parents’ expectations for him in terms of religious vocation is another significant thread. While "father and son" is the primary relationship explored, the early parts of the memoir describe Emily Gosse’s influence on her son, particularly during her illness and death from breast cancer.

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