Showing 391 - 400 of 435 annotations tagged with the keyword "Cancer"

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.

View full annotation

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."

View full annotation

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).

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

Consoling Mrs. Byrne

Moore, Breanndan

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

A surgical intern has participated in 86 year old Mrs. Byrnes's abdominal surgery, where extensive metastases from ovarian cancer are found. The surgeons take biopsies, confirm the diagnosis, and close her abdomen, knowing that her case is not treatable. Later that day, it falls to the intern to inform Mrs. Byrne of what they found.

The author describes how he avoided the task, finding other chores to do, appealing to the attending physician to not make him talk to the patient. The attending insists, and the author finally finds the nerve to talk with his patient. Much to his surprise, she has already suspected that she has cancer, tells him not to be upset, and assures him he did his best. The author discovered that learning to be a doctor meant being open to learning from his patients.

View full annotation

Harvesting the Dew

Schaefer, Judy

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In the introduction to Harvesting the Dew, Judy Schaefer poses the question, "Are nurses mere observers?" She goes on to reply, "in my view the nurse has a vantage point of not only observer but inflicter." This book is a collection of 60 poems arranged in three sections ("Day Shift," "Evening Shift," and "Night Shift") that correspond with three different nursing milieus and moods.

The book also includes an explanatory essay, "A Literary Nurse Bearing Witness to Pain," which concludes "literary nurses then are no longer anticipatory handmaidens but are a profession of men and women with their own highly valued language and structure for observation . . . Literary nurses will further define the caring that is crucial to the nursing profession."

View full annotation

A Very Easy Death

Beauvoir, Simone de

Last Updated: Dec-18-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

A retrospective and reflective review of the last weeks in the life of the author's aging mother. Threaded throughout the chronicle of the progressive downhill course of the patient dying of cancer are flashbacks to the earlier relationships among the author, her sister, and their mother. The course of the illness enables the reader to view many of the common problems that inform the doctor-patient, nurse-patient, and parent-child relationship. The narrator, who is an accomplished writer, creates vivid and timely images of the hospital as experienced by the lay person.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

In this memoir Sheed reflects on his experience of three major illnesses: polio; clinical depression, related to alcoholism and sleeping pill addiction; and cancer. He contrasts the incongruous and paradoxical "inner life" of illness, with the often oversimplified prototypical experience represented by AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] literature, various psychiatric orthodoxies, and popular media.

Issues that arise include the tension between medical authority and patient experience, caregivers' and clinicians' projections, friends' and family's misapprehensions, and the surprises, both welcome and horrifying, that occur in the course of treatment and recovery because no illness, mental or physical, follows a textbook format.

The narrative is a wry examination of games patients play as well as a confession, dry and witty but also extraordinarily perceptive, of the failed and false expectations, pretenses, fears, resistances, rage, and qualified pleasures that characterized his personal odysseys through illnesses that have often been simplified and obscured by popular mythmaking.

View full annotation

Last Things

Spark, Debra

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

The author recounts the last months of her sister's life as she slowly died of breast cancer in her mid-20's. The narrator and her sister, Cyndy, renegotiate their relationship and family roles throughout the illness. The narrator addresses the issue of living despite the prospect of dying, and of trying not to die while in the midst of attempting to live one's life. The narrator also recognizes the centrality of desire (in its broadest sense) in our lives, and describes our guilt about satiating our desires, the sense of loss from not ever really satiating them, and the inability to satisfy the desires of another.

View full annotation