Showing 251 - 260 of 429 annotations tagged with the keyword "Cancer"

The Radiation Sonnets

Yolen, Jane

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Sonnets)

Summary:

This is a collection of sonnets written by Jane Yolen, a well--known children’s book author, during her husband’s 43-day course of radiation therapy for an inoperable brain tumor. In an introductory note, she explains that "each evening after David was safely in bed" she composed a sonnet and "poured (her) feelings onto the page."

Day 1 begins, "Do not go, my love--oh, do not leave so soon . . . " She soon directs her anger at the limitations of technology (Day 4, "The damned machine has broken, cracked . . . ") as David develops side effects of treatment (Day 8, "Sucking candies"; Day 11, "Confusion"). The stakes rise (Day 12, "Today you did not want to eat. / We knew this day would come."), and eventually she succumbs to physical and emotional exhaustion (Day 18, "A friend drove you today, I did not go." and Day 20, "Off you go again, like a toddler to school . . . "). Family gathers; on Day 23 the youngest son arrives to visit his dozing father ("Your eyes flew open, your familiar smile / Told him his coming was worth each mile.")

Later in the course of treatment, the sonnets display the author’s uncertainty about what to believe. Should she listen to the doctor, who on Day 26 brings guardedly optimistic news ("I would not shut the gate quite yet")? Or should she believe what she sees and feels, as she cares for a man who appears to weakening and withering away? The food fights continue: "You who are sixty have just turned six: / You dissemble, deceive, eat half, call it whole." (Day 37) Patient, caretaker, family, and physician all avoid using the word death, even though it "is the one true word that lies within our reach" (Day 38).

In a postscript Jane Yolen reveals that a year after her husband’s "graduation" from radiation therapy he was doing well and, with regard to The Radiation Sonnets, he had promised to "be around for publication day."

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The Encyclopedia of the Dead

Kis, Danilo

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator is still grieving over the recent death of her father, D.M. He suffered from emphysema and died from a sarcoma of the intestine that metastasized to other organs. While visiting Sweden, the narrator explores the Royal Library. There she discovers the celebrated Encyclopedia of the Dead--a massive collection of thousands of volumes chronicling in detail the lives of ordinary people who have died.

She finds the biography of her father and takes notes while reading it throughout the night. Fifty years of his life in Belgrade are summarized in only 5 or 6 pages yet amazingly nothing seems to be left out. No detail is too small--the first day he ever smoked a cigarette, an episode of food poisoning, a love letter.

The text is illustrated with a picture of her father and an odd flower. Late in life, he began painting floral patterns like the one depicted in the book. According to the Encyclopedia, his interest in painting paralleled the onset and progression of his cancer. In fact, the narrator learns that the flower in the book closely resembles the appearance of the sarcoma that claimed his life.

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Atrium: October 2001

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Jul-02-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

While eating lunch in the hospital atrium, the retired doctor who narrates this story notices a boy in a wheelchair looking at him. The elderly physician and the youngster begin a conversation. The fourteen-year-old boy is terminally ill with cancer. The doctor quickly determines that the lad only has time left for honesty. The boy lies, however, about his name. He calls himself Thomas Fogarty but his real name is Tony. "What will you do on your last day on earth?" the moribund boy asks the narrator.

The doctor shares with Tony his own fantasy about dying. He envisions a former student who is now a great surgeon transporting him to an ancient forest. There he becomes part of the woods and keenly aware of the mystery of life. Soon his mind breaks with his body. Death is just "a painless transition."

Tony dies the next morning. He had dictated an unfinished letter to the doctor, and Tony's nurse delivers it to him. As a retired physician, the narrator has performed a valuable service by helping prepare the boy for death. As a writer, the narrator still hopes to save him. He has immortalized Tony by converting him into an enduring story.

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Song and Dance

Shapiro, Alan

Last Updated: Jun-30-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In this collection of poems, Alan Shapiro looks unflinchingly at his brother David’s illness and death from brain cancer in 1998. David was an actor and a "song and dance" man on Broadway, hence the title and the frequent allusion to songs and show business. The poems trace an arc from the two boys’ childhood, when they dance together lip-syncing to Ethel Merman’s "There’s No Business Like Show Business" ("Everything the Traffic Will Allow," p. 1) through the diagnosis of brain tumor ("Sleet," p. 8) to the poet’s "Last Impressions" after his brother’s death (p. 57).

The everyday, ordinary world bursts its seams as the poet sits in a radiology waiting room waiting for his brother to return from his "Scan" (p. 10) The poet tries to watch a basketball game on TV, but "soon as my brother’s name / was called" a woman sitting next to him begins to tell the story of her husband, who has turned into "a well trained zombie." Soon his brother David moves toward zombie-hood as well. In "The Phone Call" (p. 23), he listens to "the mangled speech, aphasic / pratfalls halfway through the / sentences . . . " that tells him "you can’t imagine it at all."

But brain damage doesn’t mean the loss of wisdom. In "The Last Scene" (p. 33) the poet sits beside his dying brother, who bestirs himself from somnolence to ask, "Do you think / you have a / problem?" "Look at yourself," he says, "how you sit here / drinking all alone."

David dies without missing a beat, according to the script, but his brother loses his place in the text; he simply doesn’t know his lines. In the beautiful "Broadway Revival" (p. 43), he concludes, "I play / the brother / who doesn’t know his lines, / and you the actor / who waits there in the wings, / who holds the script, / who knows it all / by heart and / will not say."

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Steven is a gifted junior high school drummer with an imagination that takes him some distance from his writing assignments into musing on his own life. The book chronicles his experience of the year his five-year-old brother, Jeffrey, was diagnosed with leukemia. The shift from consuming preoccupation with preparation for a drumming contest and competition for a particular girl's attention to radical concern about a brother he has primarily regarded as a pest takes him through ruminations both profound and hilarious.

Jeffrey's illness oddly makes Steven an object of his friends' admiration and pity, neither of which he thinks he wants or deserves. His priorities and plans begin to take a back seat to working with his parents to get Jeffrey through treatments, in the course of which he meets a girl at the hospital who teaches him a new level of friendship before her own disease gets the better of her and she dies. The story ends with Jeffrey's return home, an uncertain future, and an altered perspective on life for Steven who finds himself able to love in ways he hadn't imagined.

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Tell Me a Riddle

Olsen, Tillie

Last Updated: Jun-14-2004
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An older woman is diagnosed as having cancer. The story is of the progression of her symptoms and the effects of her illness and eventual death on her husband and grown children. The years of silent compliance with the expectations of children and spouse begin to erode as the woman becomes sicker. The relationship between the aging couple, and the place of the ill mother in the priorities of her children clarify. The tale ends with the death, and a tiny glimpse of resolution of decades of strife and unexpressed rage between man and wife.

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Going for the Record

Swanson, Julie

Last Updated: May-27-2004
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

The summer before her senior year of high school Julie Weiczynkowski qualifies for the Olympic developmental program's regional soccer team. She has every reason to believe she will be recruited by coaches from the best college teams in the country. But her elation is short-lived; the very day she returns home from soccer camp, she learns that her father has untreatable pancreatic cancer.

The story of that summer, told in Julie's journal entries, gives us a close-up look at her own stages of accommodation, and at the skills and strategies she develops to cope with her own grief, to support her mother, and to help care for her father. Each person in the family--mother, grandmother, siblings, and uncles--has a different perspective on and reaction to the crisis. Julie finds herself looking at the rest of her life as if through the wrong end of a telescope, and finds herself alienated from the boy who has been her best friend and support in high school.

The hospice workers who come to help her parents, though she finds their presence invasive, teach her a good deal about what dying looks like and how to bear with the one who is suffering. She travels a painful learning curve to arrive at a place of acceptance, claiming her life after her father's death, and reclaiming a friendship that matters to her on new terms.

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The Consultation

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: May-25-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A surgeon attending a medical meeting becomes bored and hires a prostitute. When he awakens next to her in bed the following morning, he first observes, then palpates a suspicious lump in the right breast of the sleeping woman. Although he informs her of the abnormality and the need for further evaluation and treatment, the surgeon cannot bring himself to divulge the possibility (or even likelihood) that the breast lump is malignant.

It is the prostitute who acknowledges (and eventually proclaims) that the lump might be cancer. She realizes that breast cancer might prove fatal to her livelihood as well as her life. The surgeon appears less upset by the diagnosis and potential suffering associated with it than the realization that both he and the tumor were rivals, "each feeding on her flesh" in a competition to consume the woman.

He pays the prostitute one hundred dollars for her services and cannot wait to exit the room. She offers him ten dollars for his consultation, but the surgeon refuses the fee with the excuse that he doesn't make house calls.

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The Laws of Invisible Things

Huyler, Frank

Last Updated: May-10-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A child dies in the hospital shortly after the infectious disease consultant, Dr. Michael Grant, evaluates her. The 35-year-old physician has cause to be troubled by the patient's death. He failed to perform a careful examination, did not check the results of her most recent lab tests, and held off on ordering antibiotics. Although an autopsy was not performed, it is believed she died of sepsis.

Divorced and recently relocated to North Carolina, Dr. Grant is already depressed. Now he must worry about the possibility of a malpractice lawsuit. Jonas Williams, the father of the dead child, is also ill. He complains of fatigue, visual disturbances, confusion, night sweats, and fever. Jonas has developed unusual lesions in his throat and retina--white threads in a serpentine pattern. A biopsy of his oral lesion demonstrates the presence of osteoblasts and new bone formation. Dr. Grant becomes convinced he has stumbled onto a completely new infectious illness even though he cannot identify the causative organism.

Jonas experiences gastrointestinal bleeding as a result of a low platelet count. He dies in a trailer that has caught on fire. Dr. Grant soon develops the same symptoms as his patient. He remembers coming into contact with some of Jonas's blood. He is admitted to the hospital with massive gastrointestinal bleeding. His physician attributes the bleeding to ulcers, gastritis, and thrombocytopenia. Dr. Grant, however, believes the bleeding is due to the same mysterious disease that Jonas had.

The body of Jonas's daughter is exhumed, and there is anatomic evidence of the same bizarre changes that occurred in her father. Dr. Grant visits a cabin in the woods where Jonas had lived. He is looking for clues to the puzzling new illness. What he finds, however, is not an answer. Instead, it is a renewed appreciation for his life as well as the world around him.

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The Doctor

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Apr-21-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The physician Tsvyetkov visits a child who is dying of a brain tumor, and the boy's mother. There is no hope, nothing to be done. Tsvyetkov has had one romantic fling in his life; when he was younger, he had an affair with the boy's mother. She has always told him that Misha was his son. Yet she also had affairs with other men around the same time; one of them might be the father. Tsvyetkov suspects that she insists that he is the father just so he will continue to make payments to support them, which he has always done. As he leaves, he asks the boy's mother one last time, "It can make no difference now. Is the boy mine?" She hesitates for a moment, but answers, "Yes. he is your son."

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