Showing 191 - 200 of 429 annotations tagged with the keyword "Cancer"

First Payment

Mukand, Jon Arun

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem by physician-poet Mukand transforms what might be unobserved and ordinary into the visible and extraordinary. A frail old woman with a disease of "no cure," probably cancer, is in the waiting room at a hospital or clinic. The narrator, whom we suspect is the second character, as well, a medical student, spins with delicacy a thoughtfully real and imaginative description of the waiting patient.

Readers see her "blue gauze scarf," "her gnarled, polished walking stick," and her pained body, but are provided with, additionally, an imaginary account of the effects of the disease on the woman as she struggles with pain through her final months. When the student enters the waiting room, the woman extends her "brittle" hand, then pulls from her black bag a sealed envelope. When instructed to open it, the student finds a fifty-dollar bill "to help with school." Caught by surprise, he smiles, but leaves the bill in her palm: "It lies in her palm like a / handful of earth picked up, raised / to the sky / as an offering to the spring wind."

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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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Dying

Dyak, Miriam

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

A series of fifty-one poems recounting the death from colon cancer of one member of "a community of four people, two women and two men--potter, woodworker, poet, musician." These poems (actually one long narrative poem) convey the full range of emotions of someone who never before had been deeply involved in the process of dying.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This five-part poem sketches five vignettes of the poet’s life. First, he sits in the doctor’s waiting room. Second, the doctor says " ’this lump is probably nothing, but . . . ’ " Third, the poet has a biopsy. Fourth, the pathology report, which is positive, " ’But be glad / These things are treatable today . . . Why, fifteen years ago --’ " Finally, the poet is outside on the street, observing "through my / Invisible new veil / Of finity . . . / November’s world."

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

When "death came in out of the cold / And laid a glove on me . . . ." the poet worked feverishly, sang angry songs, "paroled / Myself with garlands of last words." He acted as if he were the hinge of the world. The dramatics were soon over, however, when he "fell into the ocean’s arms . . . . " Later, he "crept back into life as into much / Too large a pair of trousers."

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The Doctor's Wife

Ariyoshi, Sawako

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story is based on the life of Hanaoka Seishu, Japanese physician, who lived from 1760-1835. The author, using Hanaoka’s personal papers, has created a fictional representation of the jealous hatred that grows between his mother and his wife living in their feudal Japanese household. The physician is involved in trying to develop an anesthetic which would enable surgeons to remove diseased breasts. The beautiful, widowed mother of the young surgeon begins to compete with his wife for the "privilege" of being his first human subject to take the toxic substances. The remainder of the story revolves around the complex relationship among the family members, with predictably unhappy outcomes, and the results of the experiment.

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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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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This remarkable book takes the reader into a Dutch nursing home where many of the 300 patients are terminally ill. The main protagonist is Anton, a competent, tough, and compassionate physician who tries to discover some meaning in the suffering of his patients, while at the same time disavowing any such meaning. Anton’s colleagues include Jaarsma, a somewhat detached and bureaucratic older physician, and Van Gooyer, a young physician who still believes that science has all the answers.

The first-person narrative consists of short, punchy segments (almost like an endless series of discrete physician-patient interactions) detailing the stories of Anton’s patients and his reactions to them. Many of these persons request assisted suicide or euthanasia. Anton reveals what he feels about these requests, how he goes about judging their validity, and the manner in which he actually carries out assisted deaths. A strong spiritual theme permeates the book; while Anton denies the relevance of God and religion, he seems constantly to be searching for a spirituality that "makes sense" of contemporary life.

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Recovering from Mortality

Cumming, Deborah

Last Updated: Aug-16-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Subtitled, "Essays from a Cancer Limbo Time," this collection of essays constitutes a memoir of living while dying. It was written during the time following the author’s acute treatment for Stage IV lung cancer, when she felt well enough to write--a period of approximately one year during which she was still taking oral anticancer medication. Based on journal entries and memory, Cumming reflects on what it is like to be in a state of "recovery" while at the same time, and variably, anticipating death. "I knew that my kind of cancer was not curable, and yet, for a spell, it seemed to have vanished" (xvi). How does one go about living in the face of "a very good partial response" to treatment?

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Balancing Acts

Schwartz, Lynne Sharon

Last Updated: Aug-15-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Max, who has lost his wife after a long life and career together as circus acrobats, reluctantly retires to an assisted living home. There he finds unexpected friendship first in his neighbor, Lettie, a widow who has a gift for uncomplicated kindness, and Alison, a thirteen-year-old he meets when he gives juggling and stunt lessons at the local junior high. The unhealed ache of his wife's slow death from cancer makes Max skittish about opening his heart to either of them, though Lettie offers him patient companionship and Alison, full of adolescent restlessness, unfocused intelligence, and need, desperately wants something of the grandfatherly good humor and wit she finds in Max.

Alison's mother is pregnant with a long-delayed second child and the distance she feels from her parents drive her to lengthy novel-writing and to rather pushy efforts to make Max her special friend. For him, she learns to juggle. She cuts class to visit him, and to go out for sodas with Lettie. Alienated from peers she finds silly, the old people touch a place in her that needs love. After a heart attack, Max comes home with newly raised defenses, and retreats from the budding friendship with both women.

But when Alison runs away to a circus he refused to attend with her, and then to Penn Station, Max goes with her parents and finds her on a hunch. Found, she clings to him like a small child, and he finds himself full of a long-resisted love. On the way home, however, he succumbs to a heart attack. In the final chapter, Lettie helps Alison begin the long, difficult process of accepting mortality, grief, and the possibility of eventual healing from a loss of a kind she finds herself still unable fully to articulate to anyone she believes will understand.

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