Showing 181 - 190 of 433 annotations tagged with the keyword "Cancer"

Invincible Summer

Ferris, Jean

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Invincible Summer introduces illness and death into what might otherwise be a standard teen love story. Here, first love is also a last look at life, and the rites of passage into romance, sexuality, and intimacy are intensified and thrust into profound paradox by approaching death. Robin and Rick meet in the hospital where she has come for a battery of tests, and he for chemotherapy. Both have acute lymphocytic leukemia. He’s been sick for two years. She’s just finding out about her own condition.

Robin lives with her father, who can hardly bear to be around her illness, and her grandmother, who, since her mother died years ago in a car accident, is the primary caretaker. The father’s love has to be understood and accepted in light of his emotional limitations. The book thoughtfully explores how sickness rearranges family systems as well as treating familiar young adult themes of separation from friends, wanting sex, embarrassment about physical appearance, uncertainty of remission, and how to talk about the future.

After Rick’s death, at which Robin is present, Robin recalls a game her mother used to play, called "The Worst Thing." "What’s there to be afraid of? What’s the worst thing that could happen?" The aim of the game is to look at the worst case until it seems manageable, because for every worst thing, there is some way through to remedy or acceptance. The game, reproduced as internal dialogue, drives to ultimate questions, ending with something like Pascal’s wager--a version of intellectual comfort that will do in the absence of positive faith in the promise of afterlife.

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Island

Huxley, Aldous

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Will Farnaby, reporter and underground agent for an oil magnate, is shipwrecked on the island of Pala, where for 120 years an ideal society has flourished. In the mid 19th century, a Scottish doctor successfully treated the enlightened Raja of Pala and settled on the island. These two men then designed a perfect society in which (according to the book jacket's description), "sex lives are unabashed; children are carefully conditioned from infancy and none is at the mercy of one set of parents; jobs are assigned according to physique and temperament," and everyone uses "moksha medicine," a drug that sharpens and deepens powers of consciousness.

The Palinese also practice hypnosis, eugenics, and a form of sexual yoga that leads to virtually perfect sexual experience. While Pala has enormous oil reserves, the people are uninterested in developing them because they are happy with their way of life and do not feel the need to become wealthier or more Westernized. Pala's companion island of Rendang is ruled by a ruthless dictator, Colonel Dipa, who plans to develop its oil resources and industrialize the island, while, at the same time, enriching himself.

After his shipwreck, Farnaby is injured climbing a cliff from the beach. He spends time recuperating, during which he meets a number of Palinese people, including Dr. MacPhail (descended from the original Scottish physician) and Murugan, the young man who will soon become the new Raja of Pala. As he learns more about the society, Farnaby comes to respect it and turns away from his plans to promote oil development on the island.

However, Murugan (who was raised largely in Switzerland by a fanatic mother who runs a fundamentalist Christian movement) frowns upon the sexual freedom, drug use, and general lack of "ambition" among his countrymen. He secretly conspires with Colonel Dipa to sell-out Pala. At the end of the book, the army of Rendang has invaded Pala and declared a joint kingdom of Rendang and Pala with Murugan as king and Colonel Dipa as Prime Minister.

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

An epigraph preceding this 28-line poem, apparently from notes by the physician-writer’s physician-father, sets the action of the poem in Wales in 1938. In the operating room, the surgeon attempts to locate the brain tumor of a patient who was under only local anesthesia because of his blood pressure. In those days in that place, finding the tumor was a "somewhat hit and miss" procedure that seems to have involved looking for it with one’s fingers.

A grotesque image, but all goes well until the patient, in a "gramophone" or "ventriloquist" voice not his own, cries out, "Leave my soul alone, leave my soul alone!" The doctor withdraws from the brain, but the patient then dies, after which the mood in the operating room is shocked and speechless, as "silence matched the silence under snow."

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Dirt Cheap

Miller-Lachmann, Lyn

Last Updated: Aug-28-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Nicholas Baran, a one-time student activist, is now in his 40s, teaching at a community college in rural Connecticut after having been denied tenure at an Ivy League school. The tenure denial, despite consistent teaching awards and high performance was clearly politically motivated and instigated by a right-wing professor protecting his turf and the school from a labor-oriented, media-challenging progressive. Nicholas has leukemia, and, upon noticing that he appears to be living in a cancer cluster, begins a private investigation of the large chemical company located just upstream on the river that runs through the town near his neighborhood.

The investigation becomes more intense after he comes upon a local rescue squad retrieving the body of a small boy who has drowned in the river, but whose body reveals effects of considerable acid in the water. Though his wife fears for him and resists his efforts, even to the point of temporarily allying herself (and engaging in a dailliance with) a powerful local real estate broker, Nick finds an ally in his son's teacher, hesitant, but committed to finding out the truth.

Though Nick's disease is progressing rapidly, he and Sandy, the teacher, manage to break into the company's files and retrieve enough damaging evidence to expose deliberate deception of the public as well as documenting the high incidence of cancers in the immediate neighborhood. Before his death Nick manages to supply enough material to the major media to expose the scandal, and leaves a hard-won legacy of truthtelling to his children.

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Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

This is a collection of poems written about breast cancer, many of the poems by women who have experienced the disease. A very full range of response to the disease is evident in these poems, from dry humor regarding prostheses; to fear and denial of the disease; to one’s often painful adjustment (along with family members) to a different body; to emotional transcendence of the experience of breast cancer.

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Her Hair

Grace, Maggi Ann

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Julia’s sister, Kara, has a recurrence of leukemia, and, because of the horrors of chemotherapy along with a dismal prognosis, decides to forgo treatment. Kara asks Julia, along with two of her closest friends, to participate in a "sweat," an Indian purification ceremony intended to "recenter" one’s spirit prior to death. The idea of her sister dying has caught Julia off guard, despite Kara’s dismal prognosis, her baldness, her gray color in the mirror.

Kara lives life to the fullest, without fear; in sharing her life, Julia had forgotten about the reality of death. Julia is surprised when in only five days the ceremony takes place, and thinks of all the practical reasons this ceremony makes no sense. Against her will, Julia takes her sister to the sweat tent and participates in the ceremony. Even though it might have hastened her sister’s death, Julia comes to realize the importance of the ritual, for as her sister dies, she, herself, feels closer to her than ever before, and is finally able to see how Kara’s life had fit into a larger design.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

An imaginative recreation of profound personal loss, the resulting changes wrought by unexpected responsibility as well as opportunity, all occurring during the progression from late adolescence into young adulthood, this work is centered on the death and its aftermath of the author’s parents 32 days apart, when the author was 21 years old (in 1991). With two siblings embarked on their own careers, it was Dave who took on "parenthood" of their eight-year old brother, "Toph."

The book details first, the mother’s death, then, the life that Eggers and Toph negotiate for themselves and with each other after they move from suburban Chicago to Berkeley, California, and, finally, Dave’s return visit to his hometown, wherein he seeks to exorcise some ghosts. In between these landmarks are reflections on family relationships, including that with a shadowy, alcoholic father; the launch of a satiric magazine, "Might" (a title meant to signify both power and possibility); concern for wounded friends; attempts to lead a "normal" life.

While the bare facts of Eggers’s story are unusual enough, the writing is arrestingly original--performative, conversational, brash, yet self-deprecating, funny, and often moving. It is not inaccurate, and will give a flavor of the writing style, to describe the book’s "themes" in the author’s own words (from the 21-page Acknowledgments), for example: "The Unspoken Magic Of Parental Disappearance"--the admission that this traumatic experience of loss "is accompanied by an undeniable but then of course guilt-inducing sense of mobility, of infinite possibility, having suddenly found oneself in a world with neither floor nor ceiling" (xxv); "The Brotherly Love/Weird Symbiosis Factor"; "The Knowingness About The Book’s Self-Conscious Aspect"--an acknowledgment that self-reference is "simply a device, a defense, to obscure the black, blinding, murderous rage and sorrow at the core of this whole story" (xxvii); "The Telling The World Of Suffering As Means Of Flushing Or At Least Diluting Of Pain Aspect"; "The Putting This All Down As Tool For Stopping Time Given The Overlap With Fear Of Death Aspect."

Dave Eggers is on his way to New York with Toph as the book ends. They currently live in Brooklyn, where Eggers produces a quarterly literary journal (Timothy Mcsweeney’s Quarterly Concern, A Journal Created By Nervous People In Relative Obscurity) and a related Web site.

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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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Summary:

This collection of sixteen Chekhov stories brings together in one volume many of Chekhov’s finest tales about doctors. The chronologically-arranged collection includes the famous novella, Ward 6, as well as such shorter classics as An Awkward Business and A Doctor’s Visit. In all sixteen stories, the doctor is a major figure, often at the center of a moral conflict.

Robert Coles , in his thoughtful forward, notes that Chekhov raises the "big questions" about "the meaning and purpose of life and the manner it ought to be conducted (and why)." Himself the editor of William Carlos Williams’s doctor stories, Coles recognizes and honors the comparison between Chekhov’s and Williams’s works and their dual careers as physician-writers. Jack Coulehan, in his introduction and comments, provides interesting biographical information on the great Russian writer as well as insightful interpretations of each story.

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