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This is the third volume of poetry by Ron Charach, who is a psychiatrist in Toronto, Canada. Charach's poems evoke a wide array of experiences and topics, ranging from surreal dream poems to images of family vacations, from an adolescent biker ("White Laces") to medical imaging techniques ("MRI" and "The Use of Contrast to Study the Spine"). Charach's tone is generally light, frequently insightful, and often surprising.
While "healing" poems are scattered throughout the book, one section ("The Calling") focuses on images of Charach's medical specialty, psychiatry. In "Psychiatrists on the Subway" the poet imagines an off-duty psychiatrist who "sets his ears / on the night table / and prays for a night of long silence / from a God who prefers / to listen." In "Newton" he invites the reader to glimpse the professional life--but with a grain of salt--as he muses about a colleague who "gave so much Electro-Convulsive therapy / he wore wooden cufflinks and rubber-soled Wallabies."
"The Naked Physician" presents an image of a kind and gentle doctor whose failure to be a good husband and father "will be recorded in the final light." Other outstanding poems in this collection include "She Will No Longer Take Her Food," "Equipoise," "Someone Else's Fire," "Labour and Delivery," and "Past Wildflowers."
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.
Tuesdays with Morrie is a series of lessons a former (and now current) student has with his teacher (and now mentor) about facing one's death and living one's life. The author, Mitch Albom, is an award-winning sports columnist with the Detroit Free Press. A chance encounter propels Albom, guiltily and fearfully, to the bedside of Morrie Schwartz, his sociology teacher at Brandeis University nearly twenty years ago. [This chance encounter occurs electronically--Albom saw Morrie speaking about dying from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) with Ted Koppel on the Nightline television program].
Once together again, teacher and student decide to extend the visit over the remaining months of Morrie's life. Their Tuesday "seminars" explore perennial value issues of everyday life: "Family," "Emotions," "Money," "Marriage," "Our Culture," Fear of Aging," etc. The interchanges, fortunately, are studded with "pearls of wisdom" from Morrie.
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.
Goya has painted his own portrait as he was during an illness in his old age. The ailing artist sits upright in an olive-green dressing gown; his face is pale and is hands clutch at the sheet against which the carmine blanket glows as the most vivid color element in the painting. He is surrounded and supported by his physician who offers him medicine in a clear glass. The background is both dark and dense, revealing two shadowy figures behind Dr. Arrieta's elbow.
An inscription runs along the bottom border of the canvas, forming a kind of ledge or barrier. It reads in translation: "Goya thankful, to his friend Arrieta: for the skill and care with which he saved his life during his short and dangerous illness, endured at the end of 1819, at seventy-three years of age. He painted it in 1820."
The author is a fourth year medical student dealing simultaneously with the rigors of medical training and the difficulties of living with diabetes. She has discovered that when she tries to interact with patients she over-identifies with them. When she reads about diabetes in medical textbooks, which present a rigid equation for balancing diet, exercise, and insulin need, she tries to adopt this approach to her personal diabetes management, convincing herself that emotions, fatigue, stress and other factors have no effect on her diabetes control. When this biomedical approach fails, she feels deep shame and frustration.
Only over time does she develop the confidence to realize that it is not shameful to admit one's personal needs even in medical training, that disease is a part of all humans and is not an enemy, that she need not be defined solely by her disease (or her profession), and that blurred boundaries between doctors and patients are not as dangerous as she was first led to believe.
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.
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.
A middle aged woman goes backpacking for the first time in 14 years after losing her leg in an automobile accident. As she recounts the excursion, with its difficulties and exhilaration, she reflects on the ways her life was changed by losing her leg, and the emotional journey she has taken since the accident. She concludes by thinking about how to find power despite her vulnerability, how to adjust and accommodate, but never compromise.
Ruthie is a thirty five year old overweight mother of two married to Ruben. Ever since her marriage, she has experienced pain with intercourse. She feels like an odd contradiction, with too much flesh and too narrow a vaginal opening, able to experience childbirth but not intercourse. She has read books about pain with intercourse, has tried lubrication, like her doctor recommended, but still the pain continues. She cannot imagine painless intercourse without completely leaving her body and wonders if she would ever get it back afterward.
She imagines what her life would be like if intercourse didn't hurt, how she would be fearless, attractive, sexual; how her husband would no longer turn away from her with indifference. As long as sex is painful, her life is concrete, full of duty and care. She imagines that without pain she would transcend this drudgery, even transcend her husband, and enter an ethereal world which centers around her.