Showing 381 - 390 of 430 annotations tagged with the keyword "Cancer"

Without

Hall, Donald

Last Updated: Jul-05-1998
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Without is Donald Hall's thirteenth book of poems. It was written in memory of his wife, the poet, Jane Kenyon, who died of leukemia in their New Hampshire home at the age of 47. Interspersed among the poems in the first half of this book is a major poem, "Her Long Illness." Following that poem is the title poem.

Without is followed by a series of poems, titled as letters ("Midsummer Letter," "Letter After a Year," etc.) that chronicle Hall's grief and his attempt to go on living--without his wife. The final poem in the collection, "Weeds and Peonies," places speaker and reader in Kenyon's garden a year after her death and ends as we see her "peonies lean their vast heads westward / as if they might topple. Some topple."

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AIDS and Its Metaphors

Sontag, Susan

Last Updated: Jul-03-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This essay was written ten years after the author's Illness as Metaphor (see this database). Sontag begins by explaining the stimulus for her earlier essay: her own experience as a cancer patient. During that time, she discovered that cultural myths about cancer tended to isolate and estrange cancer patients. They suffered needlessly because of "meaning" attributed to their illness by society. A decade later, Sontag observes that attitudes about cancer have become more open and truthful. However, a new illness (AIDS) has arisen to carry forward the metaphorical banner.

AIDS brings together two powerful metaphors about illness. First, AIDS develops further the theme (seen earlier in cancer) of disease as invader: the enemy invades and destroys you from within. Thus, AIDS strengthens the use of military metaphors in medicine. The war against cancer is reincarnated as a war against AIDS. Secondly, because AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease, it also evokes the theme of plague-as-punishment.

Sontag's project in this essay is more focused than in the earlier book. She acknowledges that the medical and public health response to AIDS explicitly counters these myths. She concludes that "not all metaphors applied to illnesses and their treatment are equally unsavory and distorting" (p. 94). The metaphor she is most anxious to see eliminated is the military metaphor, both on an illness level (illness invades the person) and a societal level (social problems invade society).

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Lips Together, Teeth Apart

McNally, Terrence

Last Updated: Jul-03-1998
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Two married couples spend the Fourth of July weekend at a summer house on Fire Island. The brother of Sally Truman has recently died of AIDS and has willed his Fire Island house to her. Her husband, Sam, opens the play testing the chlorine level of the water in the pool.

It becomes clear that everyone is afraid of somehow getting AIDS from swimming in the same pool that Sally's brother used to swim in. As she believes, "One drop of water in your mouth or an open sore and we'll be infected with my brother and his black lover and God knows who else was in here."

Sam's sister, Chloe, and her husband, John, share the apprehension, though John has cancer of the esophagus and is not particularly worried about AIDS. In fact he intentionally sticks his head in the pool and gets a mouthful of water which he spits at the others. The play reveals both marriages in trouble and many examples of superficial values and prejudices.

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Divine Honors

Raz, Hilda

Last Updated: Jun-03-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Breast cancer is a constant presence in this collection of poems by Hilda Raz. Part 1 begins with the poet's uncertainty and fear as she sits with her daughter in the oncologist's office. "I'm still me, same me no / matter what he says. Biopsy report shocks me," she writes in "Weathering/boundaries/what is good." After going under the knife, she further reports, "In the past year / I have given up four of the five organs / the body holds to call itself woman." ("For Barbara, Who Brings a Green Stone in the Shape of a Triangle").

Later, in "Breast/fever" she speaks of her new breast, "two months old, gel used in bicycle saddles . . .

/ stays cold under my skin / when the old breast is warm." Several of the poems evoke her daughter Sarah, both as a child and as a capable young woman who responds to her mother's cancer--"she knows whom to call, / where to go, or she'll find out, I'm not to worry . . . . " ("Sarah's Response")

The poet's illness is a route to self-discovery. Hilda Raz reconstitutes herself with insight, pragmatism, and humor. As she writes in "Nuts," "Nuts to beauty. / Bikini, music, then the childbed . . .

/ Nuts to the mirror." At the end of the book, "The fingers of rain are tapping again. / I send out my heart's drum." ("Recovery")

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In 1984 Handler was a moderately successful 23 year old New York City actor, when he developed acute myelogenous leukemia. Strongly supported by his girlfriend and family, Handler underwent induction and, later, consolidation chemotherapy at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital, where he also began his long experience (the "comedy of terrors" or, perhaps more appropriately, the "tragedy of errors") of a harsh, hostile medical environment populated by arrogant physicians, condescending nurses, and a host of unhelpful minor characters.

Handler carries us briskly through his first remission, the impact of his illness on his family and personal relationships, his experience with nonconventional healing (Simonton Cancer Center), his return to work on Broadway, his relapse, and the agony of a second round of induction chemotherapy at Sloan-Kettering.

Subsequently, he goes to Johns Hopkins Hospital to undergo the rigors of an autologous bone marrow transplant. At Hopkins he discovers to his surprise a medical setting far different from Sloan-Kettering: communicative, compassionate physicians and a patient-centered healing environment. Even the two hospitals' sperm banks reflect this radical difference in approach.

After surviving his transplant and a subsequent round of serious infections, Handler resumes his life. He realizes that most of the time nowadays he is not in touch with the sense of joy and gratitude for each moment that the illness taught him. Yet, these feelings exist below his consciousness; sometimes he steps through "a little doorway near the floor of my consciousness" and experiences his life in a simpler, more profound way.

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A Thousand Acres

Smiley, Jane

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Smiley's novel, King Lear (see King Lear in this database) with a shocking twist, portrays the enduring violence of incest to body and spirit. The narrative voice describes her family--a wealthy farmer and his three daughters. Family relationships are explored, especially the hidden roots that shape and define behaviors and conflicts, some lasting a lifetime.

The disclosure of a horribly dark secret explains the personalities of the three daughters and, for two, their metaphoric afflictions (infertility and breast cancer). Smiley's novel is layered with rich complexities, but none more powerful and astonishing than the core event, the sexual victimization of two vulnerable teenage girls who, as the story unfolds, are permanently scarred. Through a reinterpretation of Lear, Smiley demonstrates the cost of this hideous form of male domination and female victimization.

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The Cancer Ward

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story takes place in the men's cancer ward of a hospital in a city in Soviet Central Asia. The patients in Ward 13 all suffer from cancer, but differ in age, personality, nationality, and social class (as if such a thing could be possible in the Soviet "classless" society!). We are first introduced to Pavel Rusanov, a Communist Party functionary, who enters the hospital because of a rapidly-growing neck tumor.

We soon learn, however, that the book's central character is Oleg Kostoglotov, a young man who has recently been discharged from a penal camp and is now "eternally" exiled to this particular province. Only two weeks earlier, he was admitted to the ward in grave condition from an unspecified tumor, but he has responded rapidly to radiation therapy. Among the doctors are Zoya, a medical student; Vera Gangart, a young radiologist; and Lyudmila Dontsova, the chief of radiation therapy.

Rusanov and Kostoglotov respond to therapy and are eventually discharged; other patients remain in the ward, get worse, or are sent home to die. In the end Kostoglotov boards a train to the site of his "eternal" exile: "The long awaited happy life had come, it had come! But Oleg somehow did not recognize it."

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A Tidewater Morning

Styron, William

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

In 1938 a 13-year old boy lives through a late summer day in a small town in Tidewater, Virginia. As he delivers the day’s newspapers for Quigley, the local drugstore owner, his mother lies at home dying of cancer. She screams in unrelenting pain, but Dr. Beecroft won’t allow her to have a higher dose of morphine--"Jeff, I just don’t think I can give her any more." He does offer to try a bit of cocaine, but she soon sinks into a terminal coma.

Through the boy’s eyes and memory, we learn of the tension between husband and wife (both well educated people) and about their life in his home town among ignorant Rednecks. As German troops are massing along the border of Czechoslovakia, the boy’s mother dies. His father greets the sympathy of the local clergyman and his wife with a violent tirade against God (if he exists).

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Rab and His Friends

Brown, John

Last Updated: Jan-24-1998
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator recalls a boyhood encounter with Rab, a majestic dog. Rab causes the lad to make friends with his master, James Noble, a simple horse-cart driver. Six years later, James brings his beautiful old wife, Ailie, to the hospital where the narrator is now a medical student. She has breast cancer and the surgeon tells her that it must be operated the following day. James and the dog are allowed to remain nearby.

Ailie endures the operation in brave silence, commanding silent respect from a lively group of students. James nurses her tenderly, but she develops a fever and dies a few days later. Shortly after her burial, he too falls ill and dies. Rab refuses to eat, becomes hostile, and is killed by the new driver.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Canadian artist, Robert Pope (d.1992), devoted the last years of his short life to documenting his decade-long experience as a patient with Hodgkin's Disease. Shortly after his diagnosis he was influenced by the 1945 autobiographical novel of Elizabeth Smart, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Pope's early work explored the interconnectedness and pain of individuals bound by an imperfect love, in Smart's case for a married man. After his disease went into remission, he began to paint the patient's perspective on illness, hospitals, visitors, family, and health-care providers in a series of images that suggest the lighting of de la Tour, the photographic immediacy of Doisneau, and the menacing surrealism of de Chirico. His book, Illness and Healing: Images of Cancer (1991), became a bestseller.

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