Showing 231 - 240 of 436 annotations tagged with the keyword "Cancer"

The Diagnosis

McEwan, Ian

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A neurosurgeon looks forward to having a day off from work, but a promising Saturday brings only trouble. Henry Perowne is 48 years old and practices in London. Lately, he's concerned about the impending invasion of Iraq. Perowne's views on the situation have changed considerably after conversations with a patient who was tortured and imprisoned in Iraq for no apparent reason. A protest march against the looming war is held on Saturday.

On his way to play a game of squash that morning, Perowne is involved in a car accident on an otherwise deserted street. No one is injured and the two vehicles sustain only minor damage. The owner of the other car is a man in his twenties named Baxter. He is accompanied by two buddies. Perowne refuses Baxter's demand for cash to repair the car so Baxter punches the doctor. Perowne is moments away from a pummeling.

He notices that Baxter has a tremor and an inability to perform saccades. Perowne deduces that Baxter has Huntington's disease. The doctor capitalizes on the fortuitous diagnosis. He speculates that Baxter has kept the neurodegenerative disorder a secret from his sidekicks. When Perowne initiates a discussion about the illness, Baxter orders the cronies away so that he can speak privately to the doctor. The two men desert Baxter, and Perowne escapes in his car, hopeful he can still make the squash game.

View full annotation

Losses

Silbert, Layle

Last Updated: Aug-26-2005
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story begins as a young woman enters the hospital for cancer treatment. She struggles to maintain her identity despite the institutionalized depersonalization typical of the hospital environment. Later, loss of hair from her cancer treatment also threatens her identity, for her appearance is a large part of who she is. Although she is rather proud of the fact that she refuses to buy a wig, preferring scarves instead, she covers all the mirrors in her home. Finally, she learns that even her naked skull can be beautiful, and dares to walk outside bareheaded for the first time after her treatment.

View full annotation

My Mother Dying

Johnson, Hillary

Last Updated: Aug-26-2005
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The title of this variegated narrative hardly does it justice. Though some of the most eloquent passages are about the lingering death of the author's mother, Ruth Johnson, from esophageal cancer, it is, just as centrally, the writer's memoir of growing up with the woman she has just seen through her final years of diminishment and loss, and commentary on her mother's art as testimony to her quirky, original, unconstrained, sometimes jaundiced, often hilarious view of the human comedy.

Hillary Johnson returned to Minneapolis from New York to be with her mother and stepfather after years of only intermittent contact and in the process of reentering her mother's life, came to reassess her own. Ruth chain-smoked, drank freely, lived spontaneously, painted uninhibitedly (40 illustrations include examples of her artwork) and often bestowed her art without price wherever it was appreciated. She was a local celebrity and the daughter, who has achieved her own success, finds in her mother's life a new measure of her own. In retrospect, she recognizes the costs, both to her mother and to herself, of the bohemian way of life she knew as a child, and the pain she didn't at the time fully recognize as such.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

This anthology of "healing poems" is designed, according to the editors, "to find readers who might not usually read poetry." They say it should also be read "by those sitting in waiting rooms in surgeries and outpatients' clinics." These are definitely large tasks to expect this small collection of poems to accomplish, but in a different world (for example, a world in which people believed in the power of poetry to heal), this particular anthology would have a good shot at becoming a standard waiting room fixture.

The therapeutic intervention is well thought out. The editors have arranged the book into eight sections, each containing poems that exemplify a different theme, or situation, or style of treatment. The sections include: Admissions, Poems to Make You Feel Better, What It Feels Like, For Those We Love, The Language of Pain, Healing Rhythms, Body Parts, and Talking to the Dead. There is considerable overlap among these categories, because good poems speak several languages and can't be pinned down to a single feature. However, the classification does serve a heuristic purpose. It is another way to hook the reader, by choosing a topic he or she likes; once inside the covers, the reader may explore at will without regard to categories.

View full annotation

Sorry I Worried You

Fincke, Gary

Last Updated: Jul-11-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

When Ben Nowak reached the age of fifty, his primary care physician for the past fifteen years, Dr. Ellen Parrish, began performing annual digital rectal examinations on him. Ben is still embarrassed by the female physician checking his prostate gland. He finds the younger Dr. Parrish attractive and available. She divorced her husband because the man was abusive.

Dr. Parrish's office receptionist happens to be the wife of Ben's friend, Jerry, who works at a landfill and brings home cases of expired beer. Once, Jerry found a dead newborn baby in the landfill. Dr. Parrish informs Ben that his prostate has gotten larger. The tests she orders come back "inconclusive" so additional tests are done. Ben concedes that he might have prostate cancer, but rationalizes that things could be "a hundred times worse" (29).

When his second set of test results are normal, Ben grasps that it is likely a temporary reprieve; he is only fine "until the next time" (34). He drives to the site of an illegal dump. The trunk of his car contains ten cases of expired beer (courtesy of Jerry). At the dump, he proceeds to drink one bottle of beer from each case and smashes the other twenty-three.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Handbook

Summary:

Professor Sandra Bertman founded the Medical Humanities Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and holds certificates in grief counseling and death education. This handbook outlines how she uses the visual and literary arts to "improve our professional abilities to deal with death and dying." Her premise is that the arts provide a valuable vehicle for exploring and making bearable the prospect and fact of death.

Bertman illustrates her presentation technique (Chapter 2) of juxtaposing dual images around six central themes, here abbreviated: the chosen death; death and afterlife; existential aloneness; loss of control, unmentionable feelings, grief; the land of the sick vs. the land of the well; the moment of death. The book offers dozens of paintings, sketches, and photographs (reproduced in black and white), as well as many literary excerpts. Classic works are represented (David's painting, The Death of Socrates; Michelangelo's sculpture, "Pieta"; Tolstoy's novel, The Death of Ivan Ilyich) but there are many unusual representations as well--greeting card messages, epitaphs, cartoons.

In addition, some groups with whom she works (for example, medical students studying Gross Anatomy) have submitted their own drawings and commentary. These are shown in Chapter 3, along with written responses to a follow-up Death Attitude Questionnaire. Responses are from junior and senior high school students; college students; medical students; graduate nurses; hospice volunteers.

Chapter 4 gives suggestions for how to use images and texts and for how to approach discussions of loss and grief. The course syllabus for "Dissection, Dying, and Death," taught with Gross Anatomy, is appended, and there is an extensive bibliography.

View full annotation

Summary:

Moller is a sociologist who takes us into the world of the urban poor; he focuses on half a dozen individuals, giving intimate and moving portraits of them. An opening character is called Cowboy (a pseudonym); he lives under a bridge with his dog Cowgirl and dies a slow death of lung cancer. In an Epilogue (pp. 163-184) Moller calls him "an urban Thoreau." This respect for the dying poor pervades the book.

Besides descriptions of the characters, there is much dialogue, including extended quotations, but also some 100 small photographs, usually close-ups, inserted into the text. One photo shows a man in his coffin. Clearly Moller gets close to his characters, and so does the reader.

Moller argues that the dominant society--to its shame--neither supplies adequate care for this sector of society nor even recognition that such people exist. He calls the dying poor "an invisible world." It's a disturbing world, with the pain and neglect, but also an inspiring one, because of the caregivers such as social workers and nurses and the heroism and dignity of the patients presented.

View full annotation

Summary:

This book contains six medical case studies in which hope, or lack of it, played a role in the outcome. Five stories are of Groopman's cancer patients, the sixth the story of his own recovery from severe chronic lower back pain. The book concludes with an account of Groopman's search for scientific answers to the questions that inspired the book: How is the cognitive-emotional complex of hope formed in the mind? How might that complex affect the chemistry of the brain? And how might that, in turn, affect the physiology of the body in a way that would be relevant to healing?

View full annotation

Summary:

This film by Danish filmmakers focuses on two Scots, Wilbur (Jamie Sives) and his older, considerate brother Harbour (Adrian Rawlins), who own a family buy-and-sell bookshop, North Books, in Glasgow. The opening movie credits intersperse with Wilbur's suicide attempt by pills and gassing himself. Wilbur's attempt is thwarted first by the fact that he has to put more coins into the apartment gas meter, and then by his brother, whom Wilbur had telephoned just before losing consciousness. Wilbur continues suicide attempts throughout much of the movie, with methods that range from the absurd to the disturbingly tragic.

The brothers' father had recently died and several scenes occur at a hillside cemetery. Surrounded by imposing stone monuments, the brothers' parents are buried without markers, but with a view, if you cock your head and imagine, of the bookshop. The tragedy of the mother's death when Wilbur was only 5 years old, is invoked to explain much of Wilbur's disturbance.

Early in the movie, Alice (Shirley Henderson), a waif-like single mother who cleans the operating and trauma theatres and sells books she finds at the hospital to the bookshop, is introduced, along with her soon to be 9 year old daughter, Mary (Lisa McKinlay). Alice and Harbour wed, and Mary presciently plunks a penguin eraser she has just received atop the wedding cake next to the bride and groom: "That's Wilbur," she says.

Two hospital workers feature prominently in the film. Horst (Mads Mikkelsen) is a Danish ex-pat physician and "senior psychologist." He chain smokes, distances himself from the group therapy he supposedly supervises, and yet deftly discusses bad news with Harbour in several scenes. The psychiatric nurse, Moira (Julia Davis), however, who, with ever-changing hairstyles and inappropriate nurse-patient interactions, acts primarily as comic relief, delivers the same bad news with unthinking, devastating directness.

View full annotation

Sarcophagus

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Feb-07-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The surgeon-narrator and his team of assistants (the anesthesiologist, scrub nurse, circulating nurse, surgical resident, and medical student) perform a difficult operation during the night. The patient has an infiltrating cancer of the stomach (linitis plastica) that has eroded his aorta. Because of uncontrollable bleeding, the operation (an exploratory laparotomy with attempted repair of a malignant aorto-gastric fistula) is as doomed as the patient himself.

The surgeon soon comprehends the hopelessness of the procedure as well as the patient's terminal condition. He turns off the oxygen from the gas tank and stops the patient's blood transfusion. Minutes later, the man dies. Blood is all over everything. The doctor must now deliver the bad news to the man's family. He has the medical student tag along.

Members of the patient's family are upset and some are even out of control so he dispenses tranquilizers to them. The surgeon returns to the operating room (OR) and even now finds blood everywhere. The OR team is still working. The doctor showers and then goes back to the OR once more. The room is now dark and empty but clean. The surgeon imagines the dead man's body with a row of abdominal stitches that he likens to hieroglyphics. The unsuccessful operation and the surgeon's actions are thus both concealed and unforgettable.

View full annotation