Showing 241 - 250 of 434 annotations tagged with the keyword "Cancer"

Kirk

Groopman, Jerome

Last Updated: Jan-28-2005
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Case Study

Summary:

Kirk, a man in his 50s with highly metastasized kidney cancer, presents himself to Dr. Groopman after having been turned away as a helpless case by several respected cancer clinics. He tells Groopman that he is a risk-taking venture capitalist and is willing to take any medical risk on the chance that it will save him. After pondering the ethics of the situation and the nature of informed consent under such conditions, Groopman agrees to treat Kirk. He proceeds to devise a highly risky (and untried) combination of chemotherapeutic agents. The course of treatment is excruciatingly difficult, but the experiment succeeds, and Kirk's cancer goes into complete remission.

Kirk calls it magic, a miracle, and the hospital interns call it a "fascinoma," a case defying normal expectations. Groopman releases Kirk to home and weekly checkups with a local internist, but in doing so he notices that Kirk's mood has mysteriously changed. He has lost the "piss and vinegar" of their earlier contact. Kirk continues to improve physically, traveling and playing golf and even tennis, but Kirk's wife soon reports that Kirk has stopped reading the newspapers he used to devour, which now collect in their driveway.

Several months later some physical symptoms return, and Kirk's cancer is back. A month later he is dead. In talks with Kirk near the end, Groopman discovers that Kirk's brush with death had brought with it a new and sharply negative view of himself as selfish and disconnected from the world and other people. Suddenly all his financial success seemed to him "pointless," and, since his life contained nothing else, it seemed to him a waste, and he felt it was too late to live it over. What Kirk ironically calls "my great epiphany" seems to have undone his doctor's "magic."

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The Summer of Her Baldness

Lord, Catherine

Last Updated: Jan-26-2005
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

When faced with breast cancer and chemotherapy, Catherine Lord chronicles her illness in a literary performance piece by adopting the online persona of Her Baldness--a testy, witty, passionate presence who speaks forthrightly about her fears to a highly selective listserv audience of friends, family, and colleagues. The fragmented, multifaceted format of this autobiographical text includes photos, lists, e-mail narrations of her illness, responses from friends, plus the quick-tempered, no-holds-barred ruminations of Her Baldness on what cancer, chemotherapy, and baldness have meant in her life.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poetry and Art

Summary:

In the Foreword to this collection, poet John Graham-Pole writes, "Children have uncovered for me the last and greatest lesson: souls thriving on failing at bigger and bigger things" (xvii). The heroes of these poems are just such children, transformed by serious illness. For example, Dominic in "Waiting" who "rests on his airbubble cot / awaiting life’s flight from its earthly beat" (10); Ruby in "Ruby Red": "And so poor Ruby meets her final test, in gentle hemolysis rolled to res" (35); the lovely young woman in "Elegy": "You’re newly dead, sans wig, / seventeen year old virgin whom / I’d loved." (57).

"I try through writing poems to lay a finger on the purpose of illness, on its pulse .  . Poems turn denial and withdrawal into compassion--feeling with. They turn fear into mercy--thank you" (xvii). The poet’s eye remains dispassionate, even though his heart may be breaking, as in "Last Rites" (32), in which a dead toddler’s father and his companion "sluice down the flooring with their hoses. After the vomit and blood the water runs clear." He understands the limits of communication about loss, but recognizes, too, that we must make the attempt; and the attempt has meaning in itself: "Afterward the circles of our talk / snap . . . - Within, we write our / separate texts of it. Between, the tension / stands: this no talk could break." ("Circles," p. 87)

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Lessons from the Art

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-13-2005
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Selzer tells four stories of surgical loss: a surprise loss on the operating table, the drowning of a sick child in a flood in wartime Korea, the sudden death of a professor due to a perforated ulcer, and the loss of some facial mobility in a young woman following the removal of a tumor in her cheek. As we move from one vignette to the next, the narrator's mood goes from despair to accepting to redeemed, with various forms of love the agent.

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The Surgeon as Priest

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-13-2005
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Selzer begins by describing an anonymous painting of Vesalius at the dissecting table, about to cut into the cadaver in front of him, yet glancing over his shoulder at a crucifix on the wall behind him. He then tells two medical stories in which spirituality has played a crucial role.

In the first, a man who has repeatedly refused to have a brain cancer operated on turns up one day healed, attributing it to the holy water a family member brought back from Lourdes. In the second, the Dalai Lama's personal physician does rounds in an American hospital and, using ancient techniques, diagnoses correctly, and in some detail, a case of congenital heart disease.

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Summary:

This is a collection of 14 contemporary patients' accounts of dealing with their illness or injury. (The patients, four men and ten women, including the editors, are all writers.) Among them the stories cover numerous medical conditions: erythroblastosis, environmental illness, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis, hip replacement, H.I.V., Crohn's disease, broken leg, ruptured cervical disc, myelitis, rheumatoid arthritis, paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, lupus, alcoholism, multiple sclerosis, diabetic retinopathy, breast cancer, severe facial scarring, and depression. The collection is unified by a focus on selfhood--the recovery, discovery, or reconstruction of the psyche that the editors propose is the deepest form of healing.

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Memoirs)

Summary:

This is a collection of 22 contemporary first-person accounts by survivors of a wide range of life’s woes--some medical, some social, and most of them at least partly emotional. The challenges the writers have faced are too numerous to represent individually in keywords, but they include incest, colonialism, disfigurement, adultery and divorce, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bone marrow transplant, and the death of family members.

All of the authors are writers, a handful of them well-known, and virtually all the works collected here have been published before. They are unified, to use the editor’s words, by the idea that "lifewriting is a passage through grief to knowledge" (she might have added "and to healing").

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My Doctor

Bukowski, Charles

Last Updated: Nov-12-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this narrative poem, the narrator enters his doctor's waiting room only to find that the room is full of "mostly old / dying women," and the doctor is not in. So the narrator decides to go to the racetrack, where he finds the doctor "standing there with / a hot dog and a beer."

The doctor explains that his practice is depressing; for example, "there's one / old woman, she's got / cancer of the ass." The doctor gives his patient a good tip on the next race. The narrator reveals that he, too, has cancer of the ass. The doctor gets them both another hot dog and beer and starts "talking / about what / a horrible woman / his wife was." [103 lines]

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Grace and Grit

Wilber, Ken

Last Updated: Oct-22-2004
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In the fall of 1983, Treya Killam was about to be married to Ken Wilber, a prominent theorist in the field of transpersonal psychology, when she was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of breast cancer. This is Ken Wilber's story, with much of it told through his wife Treya's journals and letters, of their five-year battle against her cancer, a long roller-coaster ride that ended in her death by euthanasia in 1988. The narrative includes details of several conventional and unconventional cancer therapies.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This selection of Miroslav Holub's poems is organized around five major topics--genealogy, anthropology, semiology, pathology, and tautology--rather than chronologically. The poems, some of which date back to his first collection in 1958, were translated into English by a number of different persons, but mostly by David Young, who has had a long-term collaboration with Holub.

Holub states his major preoccupation in "Bones," the very first poem in this collection: "We seek / a backbone / that will stay / straight." (p. 13) The search reaches its fullest expression in "Interferon," a long poem about messages, messengers, and interference: "Cells infected by a virus / send signals out . . .

And when a poet dies, deep in the night / a long black bird wakes up in the thicket / and sings for all it's worth." (p.159) The first step in the search is to learn to interpret the signals, and to understand the black bird's song. To do that, one has to ask questions. Yet, in the face of enormous "Suffering," we are drawn to passivity: "But I ask no questions, / no one asks any questions, / because it's all quite useless." (p. 147) How to overcome the inertia and proceed, even in the face of likely failure?

Holub reminds us that even "In the Microscope" we find "cells, fighters / who lay down their lives / for a song." (p. 149) In fact, there may be something worth fighting for, although perhaps we can only see it under extreme circumstances, as in "Crush Syndrome," where a concrete mixer snaps up the hand of a man cleaning it: "The finger bones / said a few things you don't hear very often...In that moment / I realized I had a soul." (p. 174). But perhaps what we call the soul is really just our deep yearning to survive, as in "Heart Transplant": "It's like a model of a battlefield / where Life and Spirit / have been fighting / and both have won." (p. 179)

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