Showing 381 - 390 of 435 annotations tagged with the keyword "Cancer"

One Last Time

Russell, Lori

Last Updated: Nov-24-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The wife of a man dying of cancer takes him to Yosemite for one last visit before his death. During this trip she thinks about how her life has been changed, both by marriage and by her husband's illness. Yosemite represented a tradition for them where they vacationed with their children each year. As the narrator reflects on how her life will change after her husband's death, and on the needs she has suppressed over the years, Yosemite begins to represent a new kind of tradition for her which will give her nurturance in the future.

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Six Days

DeMaine, Mary

Last Updated: Oct-08-1998
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem is divided into six stanzas, each titled by a successive day. The subject of the poem is a woman's reaction to mammography and the unexpected "spot" that is discovered. The woman is shown the spot on the mammogram, and the agony begins: does she have breast cancer? The exam occurs on Thursday; she must wait until the following Tuesday to find out.

Meanwhile, life and relationships take on new meanings and tenderness. For instance, at a large family reunion, she is determined to laugh with the family about childhood reminiscences, even though her laughter is now bittersweet (she keeps her torment private from all but her lover).

Other days are filled with worry and nightmare. At long last, during a perfunctory call from her physician, she finds out that the spot is merely a protein deposit. Relieved, she thanks the physician, who remains uninformed of the depth of her patient's recent torment.

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The Short History of a Prince

Hamilton, Jane

Last Updated: Sep-30-1998
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Short History of a Prince is the story of Walter McCloud beginning in his teens and ending as he approaches forty, told alternately in Walter’s adolescent and adult voice. Weaned on Balanchine and Tchaikovsky by his eccentric, cultured aunt, the teenage Walter dances and dreams of playing the Prince in The Nutcracker. Supported by his loving family, including his older jock brother Daniel, Walter confronts the ambiguities of sexual identity as he becomes more aware of his conflicting feelings for his two best friends, Mitch and Susan (also dancers and far more talented).

Suddenly Walter’s pleasant, routinized family life is interrupted when his brother Daniel becomes ill, transforming his life, his parents’ life, and his friend Susan’s life when she becomes romantically involved with Daniel even with the knowledge of his terminal diagnosis. The following year is full of change surrounding Walter’s acknowledgment of his love for and subsequent involvement with his friend Mitch, and his ultimate response to Daniel’s dying. The adult Walter, a first-year English teacher near the McCloud summer home at Lake Margaret, Wisconsin (after a career at a doll house shop in New York City), is still trying to understand the meanings of family, love, desire, and friendship.

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Healing Lessons

Winawer, Sidney

Last Updated: Sep-30-1998
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Sidney Winawer is a New York physician specializing in gastrointestinal cancers. When his wife, Andrea, is diagnosed with stomach cancer, he is made to see his own work from a new perspective, that of the patient and her family. The experience gives him new insights into aspects of health care he had not considered before, such as the alienating effects of some hospital routines on patient and family, the patient's need to find hope from any source, regardless of its intellectual provenance, and, encouragingly, the life-enhancing effects on his family as they join Andrea in her determined struggle to prolong and enrich whatever time remains for her.

For the first time, Winawer explores alternative and complementary approaches to cancer treatment, including meditation, antioxidant therapies, hyperthermia, and other attempts to stimulate the immune system. At first resistant, he comes to recognize the need for the terminally ill and their families to have access to as many resources as possible, and eventually it becomes his "mission" to emphasize the need for practitioners of conventional medicine to learn as much as possible about integrative medicine.

An interesting subplot is the story of Dr. Casper Schmidt, Andrea's psychiatrist, whose remarkable knowledge of new treatments for terminal illness is explained when he dies of AIDS. As another physician led by personal experience of disease to explore beyond the boundaries of conventional therapies, Schmidt forms an illuminating counterpoint to Winawer himself.

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All the Days of His Dying

Frick, Marlena

Last Updated: Aug-17-1998
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The author narrates this account of the death of her husband, Miecu, a Polish physician, from cancer of the esophagus. The couple meet in 1954, marry in 1962, and in 1966 Miecu is found to have "heart trouble" and some "gastric problems." A gastrectomy is performed, but the cancer has metastasized and, after more surgery, his wife takes him home, and cares for him until he dies.

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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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