Showing 261 - 270 of 429 annotations tagged with the keyword "Cancer"

Letters to a Young Doctor

Selzer, Richard

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of 23 stories, five of which take the form of "letters" in which an older physician (not surprisingly, a surgeon) gives advice to an imaginary young surgeon. However, every one of the stories "fits" as a tale that might be told in such a letter--assuming the author was a wise and gifted writer, in addition to being a surgeon.

The book begins with the gift of a physical diagnosis textbook on the occasion of the young doctor's graduation ("Textbook") and ends with a reflection on "your first autopsy" ("Remains"). Among the other stories are Imelda (see annotation), Brute (see annotation), Toenails (see annotation), Mercy (see annotation), "A Pint of Blood," "Witness," "The Virgin and the Petri Dish," and "Impostor."

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Patrimony, A True Story

Roth, Philip

Last Updated: Mar-02-2004
Annotated by:
Poirier, Suzanne

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Patrimony relates the final illness and death of Philip Roth's father, Herman Roth. It begins as a misdiagnosis of Bell's palsy, which is eventually diagnosed as a brain tumor. Further tests reveal that it is cancer, operable only with great effort and little promise of cure or even significant palliation. The family (including Herman) decides against surgery and remains in close contact with him until his death.

Roth recounts his father's increasing weakness and helplessness, his own emergency quintuple bypass surgery, and his dreams of his father speaking to him from beyond the grave. Writing this book, he concludes, is the natural and necessary process in bearing witness to his father's life and death.

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Every Second Counts

Armstrong, Lance

Last Updated: Feb-11-2004
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

This book, a sequel to It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, chronicles five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong's personal and professional triumphs and agonies from late 1999 (after he won his first Tour and after the birth of his son Luke) to mid-2003, the 100th anniversary of the Tour. Armstrong defines himself by his cancer experience and survival; he devotes himself to both one-on-one connections with fellow cancer patients as well as his public persona to raise awareness and funds for cancer programs and survivors' needs.

There are many medically related themes in the book. Descriptions of cycling sports injuries and illnesses include a severe concussion, a broken cervical vertebra, dehydration, road rash, tendonitis and exhaustion. Armstrong experiences the loss of friends and acquaintances to cancer and trauma. He is the subject of an intense investigation into the possible use of recombinant erythropoietin and finally cleared of suspicion after nearly two years. As a world class athlete, he is subject to frequent, random drug testing.

His wife experiences a failed in vitro fertilization cycle, though a subsequent successful treatment leads to the birth of healthy twin girls. The Red Cross invites Armstrong to visit NYC firefighters soon after the devastation of September 11, 2001 in a successful effort to boost morale. Armstrong, though, describes encounters with some cancer patients in which he felt he did not succeed in providing the desired inspiration.

Despite reaching his five-year cancer-free milestone, Armstrong, like many other cancer survivors, wonders if the cancer will return. He is hyper-vigilant of his body not only because of his elite athlete status, but also because of his cancer history. Nonetheless, he is reckless and jumps from a steep cliff to sense the rush of fear and freedom.

Armstrong trusts and believes in modern medicine and technology, as well as the physicians, nurses and other health care practitioners dedicated to cancer treatments and health care. He also lauds complementary practices, particularly the team chiropractor who uses a variety of techniques to support the riders during the grueling Tour.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

This is a new collection of poetry and short prose by nurses, edited by Cortney Davis and Judy Schaefer, whose remarkable first anthology, Between the Heartbeats: Poetry and Prose by Nurses [see annotation in this database], may be the founding document of "nurse writing" as a recognizable genre. In the Foreword, Cortney Davis comments on the process of selection and sketches the similarities and differences between this and the previous volume.

One of the interesting similarities is that nurses write more often about birth than death; one of the differences is the wider range of topics, including nurses who reveal their own experiences as patients (see Amy Haddad, "Conversations with Wendy," pp. 100-102) and others whose fatigue and frustration cause them to step away from nursing (see Pamela Mitchell, "A Nurse's Farewell," pp., 149-151)

As in Between the Heartbeats, the authors of Intensive Care appear in alphabetical order, which favors variety and surprise over categorization. In "Medical Ward," the first poem (pp. 1-2), Krys Ahlman captures many of the themes of the anthology. "I was wearing a thousand tiny failures," Ahlman writes, and concludes: "I held out my hand, I said / I am not afraid to cry."

Intensive Care is full of delights. As advertised, there is much about bringing children into the world and caring for them; for example, Lynn Bernardini's reminiscence, "Does This Day Mean Anything to You?" about having given up her own baby for adoption (pp. 11-16); Celia Brown's poem "Forget-Me-Nots" (pp. 35-36); and the powerful but ambiguous hope of "Neonatal ICU" (Leigh Wilkerson, p.247). There are the painful memories of dying children and adolescents, especially Jeanne Bryner's amazing, "Breathless" (p. 42) and "Car Spotting, " (pp. 173-184), a story by Christine Rahn about a terminally ill adolescent. In "Car Spotting" the head nurse criticizes the young narrator because, "You become too personally involved with the patients . . . Nurses must make decisions based on objective data. Becoming too attached can cloud professional judgment." (p. 175) I found this an interesting statement coming from a nursing instructor--it could well have been made by a professor of medicine to a third year medical student.

Other major themes include the humor of nursing (see "RX for Nurses: Brag!" by Kathleen Walsh Spencer, p. 203; and "What Nurses Do on Their Day Off," Judy Schaefer, p. 188); women's health (see "Every Day, the Pregnant Teenagers," Cortney Davis, p 69; and "Redemption at the Women's Center," Jeanne Lavasseur, pp. 132-133); nursing the elderly (see "Home Visits," Paula Sergi, pp. 195-196); and the wonderful narratives of patient care (see "Sarah's Pumpkin Bread," Terry Evans, pp. 87-90; "Edna's Star," Chris Grant," pp. 95-99; and "That Mystique," Madeline Mysko, pp. 158-167). Finally, Intensive Care looks back thoughtfully in a number of pieces to nursing in military settings.

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How JFK Killed My Father

Berlin, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-28-2004
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

How JFK Killed My Father is a collection of 52 poems by psychiatrist Richard Berlin. The book is divided into five sections--"Learning the Shapes," "Role Models," "Code Blue," "What a Psychiatrist Remembers," and "What I Love"--and these subtitles guide the reader through this physician's poignant journey from medical student to accomplished, and humbled, "healer, priest, turner of textbook pages, searcher, listener, arrogant crow consumed in white" ("If You Ask Me My Name").

Berlin's poems succeed because of strong imagery and the kind of internal "knowing" that only comes when one pays attention to the sights, sounds, and emotional nuances that occur in training, in practice, and in life. A musician as well as a doctor, Berlin sometimes uses jazz as a metaphor: in "Uncle Joe" he writes about "suffering's music" and in "Learning the Shapes" medical students practice examining patients until their fingers are as sensitive as a "blind bluesman" whose fingers can sense the right note "an instant before / touching a tight steel string."

Berlin "gets" the stress of med school and residency just right in "Sunday Parade" and "January Thaw"; as his poems retrace his path from student to practicing psychiatrist, he transmits the deepening of both experience and empathy in the same right-on way: "What I Revealed," "Places We Have Met," "What a Dying Woman Saw," "Transference," "What a Psychiatrist Remembers," "What Makes a Psychiatrist Cry," "Our Medical Marriage," and "What I Love" stand out as examples. The poems in this collection are personal, eloquent, straightforward and well crafted; they move effortlessly between body, mind, and spirit.

A reader could open this collection to any poem and be captivated, but for full impact this collection is best read from beginning to end. Medical students, especially, might welcome this volume as a guide along their way.

(Some of the poems here also appear in Berlin's chapbook, Code Blue, which is annotated in this database.)

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Rosenberg, a surgeon and bench research scientist, has an epiphany fairly early in his clinical career: a patient with widespread cancer determined to be terminal, returns to the clinic sometime later, apparently disease-free without medical treatment. The scientist wonders if this patient's body could have tapped into some immunological or genetic healing pool. After having formulated the question, the author takes the reader through the trials and tribulations of framing, trying, failing, retrying and failing again to determine a way to test and prove how this phenomenon could have happened.

Over the many years of experimental work in the laboratory and on the wards of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Rosenberg presents in a fashion largely accessible to the lay public a glimpse into this process. The work covers nearly three decades of the author's struggle to better understand and to develop new treatments for malignancies.

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Summary:

Physician, poet, artist, parent, astute observer of his environment, Dr. Schneiderman gives us a wide vision of the things that inform his personal world. This collection of poems and pen and ink sketches spans almost four decades of its creator's life and life experiences. The author has collated his work around nine key foci, roughly but not totally, temporal in sequence. Through his eyes we meet his history related to New York City, his profound love for and attachment to his beloved wife and son, his humbleness before the labors of his chosen profession and the persons he meets in this context, and, finally, his tributes to the bravery of the men and women who responded to the horrendous assault of 9/11/01 upon his birthplace, the Great City.

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Mom's Marijuana

Shapiro, Dan

Last Updated: Jan-19-2004
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

When Dan Shapiro was 20 years old and a junior in college, he was diagnosed with "nodular sclerosing Hodgkin's disease." Thus began a five-year ordeal of chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and a bone marrow transplant that failed. But this memoir, which recounts diagnosis, treatment, and two relapses, is more than a narrative of illness. Woven in and out of the subjective experience of physical and emotional trauma is the author's life as an adolescent, a family member, a young man who falls in love with the woman who eventually becomes his wife, a graduate student learning to be a clinical psychologist.

Sequences of ordinary life are carefully juxtaposed with sections on illness and treatment, emphasizing the author's determination to incorporate his illness into his life, all part of one continuous fabric. Even though disease was enormously disruptive, "[l]ife doesn't stop when something horrible happens" (158). Part of that life was a mother who decided to grow marijuana plants in her backyard ("Mom's Marijuana") so that her son would have an antidote for the terrible nausea that accompanied his chemotherapy. It is Mom who learns in a waiting room conversation that it might be advisable for Dan to bank his sperm for the future-- and who then proceeds to make the arrangements. As the memoir ends, Dan's mother finally disposes of the dry marijuana leaves that have been hanging in her attic for several years.

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Eclipse

Bryner, Jeanne

Last Updated: Nov-20-2003
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Poet and writer Jeanne Bryner has assembled 24 short stories to give us Eclipse, a wise and tender collection that reflects her blue-collar roots in Appalachia and industrial Ohio, and also her work as a registered nurse. These stories are about real human beings, flawed and graced, who, for the most part, care for one another, whether family or stranger, with compassion and the kind of acceptance that comes from living a hard life. Bryner's writing skills move these characters beyond easy stereotype and turn their actions--their anger over the death of a loved one or the cooking of a Sunday supper--into transformative metaphors that illuminate the sorrows and joys of everyday life.

The following stories might be of particular interest to those teaching or studying literature and medicine: "Sara's Daughters," in which a woman undergoes artificial insemination and, through her thoughts and her conversations with the nurse, perfectly reveals an infertile woman's humiliation, longing, and hope; "The Jaws of Life," in which a young woman takes her Aunt Mavis to visit Uncle Webster in a nursing home and there observes the poignant interactions of the well and the dying, the young and the old, moments infused with both charity and dread.

In addition: "Turn the Radio to a Gospel Station," in which two cleaning ladies in a hospital ER observe and philosophize about what goes on around them, the deaths and near-deaths, the kindness or mutinies of nurses, the doctors' mechanical repetition of questions, the lovers hiding in the linen closet; "The Gemini Sisters," in which a group of weight-watching women meet to shed pounds and talk about life; "Foxglove Canyon," in which a registered nurse with forty year's experience relates memories of her work, her family, and how things change when a writer comes to teach the staff and the patients about poetry, "the flower you stumble across growing near the barn, a purple bloom that nobody planted."

"Red Corvette" examines the intimacy that develops between family members, particularly when one is caregiver to the other. In this story a woman comes to visit her post-op sister and remembers, while watching her sister suffer in pain, their childhood, those moments of freedom and health she yearns for her sister to regain.

"The Feel of Flannel" is about a woman who, like her mother and grandmother, has breast cancer. She refuses to participate in a research project but instead barrels ahead into her uncertain future, planning to wear her nightgown to the grocery store and tattoo her husband's name "right here when this port comes out."

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Equal Affections

Leavitt, David

Last Updated: Nov-17-2003
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The first part of this novel presents a detailed picture of the Jewish Californian Cooper family, centering on the sixty-year-old Louise, who is dying of breast cancer. Her husband, Nat, is unfaithful, and, she suspects, only loves her when she is at her weakest and most sick. Her daughter, April, is a lesbian folk singer who becomes pregnant with the help of a gay male friend and a turkey baster. Danny, the son, is also gay, living in New York with Walter, his lover, who is becoming increasingly detached and obsessed with internet sex groups.

Louise considers herself lucky, though, compared with her younger sister Eleanor, partially disabled by childhood polio, disorganized and ill-groomed and married to Sid, whom Louise finds deeply unattractive. Eleanor's son is a sociopathic drug addict, and her daughter has ovarian cancer caused by Eleanor's taking DES (diethylstilbesterol) in pregnancy. She sends Louise newspaper cuttings about the causes of homosexuality and the dangers of AIDS.

The first part having established the complex dynamics and histories of the family's relationships, the second brings the entire family together in the crisis of Louise's final illness and death (a reaction to chemotherapy drugs causes severe chemical burns and she dies in a burn unit in a San Francisco hospital). After her death, the new dynamics of the family are established, and Louise's son and daughter conclude that their mother had "a terrible life" (p. 261).

The short third part shows that no such conclusion is possible, that even those closest to us remain terribly but fascinatingly unknowable. A flashback to a point just before Louise's final illness describes her attempt to convert to Catholicism and a brief moment in which she experiences a marvelous sense of complete harmony.

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