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Summary:A highly referential poem, "St. Peregrinus' Cancer" (eight stanzas of four couplets each) "may be most indebted to the arcane [book] Watercolours of Cancer Patients' Dreams (Phoebe Lord, M.D., London, 1964)" according to the poet. (See pg. 254 of the anthology for a description of the poet and her comments on this poem.) The poem starts with an image of St. Peregrinus (Laziosi, the 14th century Italian patron saint of cancer patients who was himself miraculously cured of a cancerous foot after a night of prayer) crossing a field and quickly moves internally to the poet's family and private world, describing her and her mother's cancers. A dense poem, it relies heavily on imagery and punning (the word "crab" appears twice in case the reader didn't get the reference the first time).
Summary:The story is told from the perspective of an obstetrician's wife. She encourages her husband as he finishes school and gets his first job. Then she becomes pregnant. She tells of the changes in her body and in her perspective. Her husband is busy treating other women, while she goes to childbirth classes alone. He arrives just at the end of the birth. She wants him to be with her more often, but understands his need to be with his patients.
Summary:Selzer developed Legionnaire's disease and was comatose for 23 days in 1991. In this short book, he describes his illness and prolonged convalescence. The time of his stay in the ICU is lost to him, so he invents the story of what (might have) happened when he was comatose and delirious. In fact, he invents his own death and resurrection.
Summary:The male narrator works in an abortion clinic. On a daily basis he faces taunts from protesters and the bloody fragments of fetuses. His only consolations are his loving dog and a female lover. He says that he sticks with the job because he loves women and can't turn them down when they ask for his help. One day, he comes home from work to find that a protester has killed his dog. His lover comes and comforts him.
Summary:An intern is on duty in a cancer ward. He especially deals with leukemia. He tells one of his patients that he understands how she feels as she cries, facing death. She turns on him, telling him that he can't possibly understand. A short time later, the intern grows weak and ill. He is diagnosed as having leukemia. He spends months in the hospital, feeling helpless as his old classmates treat him. He makes them promise to let him die peacefully when his time comes. He dies when an intern accidentally pierces his spleen while trying to tap his lung.
Summary:Old Doc Rivers is an old-time doctor who believes in prompt decisions and quick action. Although he is recognized as an alcoholic and drug abuser, the people in the community still hold him in high esteem and often turn to him for help when all else has failed. His story is told from the perspective of several people in his home town after his death.
Summary:The doctor-narrator has been present at the birth of seven of Angelina's eight children. She is now in labor with the ninth. The mother is an Italian immigrant. The labor is prolonged, but without complications. The doctor spends much of the evening peacefully asleep in the kitchen.
Summary:The doctor-narrator is working in a hospital during the Great Depression. The pediatric ward cares for many children left there by families unable to feed or care for them. The doctor sometimes thinks the children should just be allowed to die. One particular child captures his interest. She has a high fever and he cannot figure out why. Her condition becomes progressively worse and she dies. It turns out that she had meningitis. Perhaps he could have saved her if he had made the correct diagnosis. Yet, he doesn't feel guilty.
This is a light-hearted short story about an attractive, middle-aged female hypnotist who has a minor respiratory infection and visits the doctor. At first she hypnotizes the nurses so that they will put her in the examining room without a wait, and convinces them that her vital signs are different from what they had originally measured.
After this initial, good-natured experiment, the narrator waits a full 45 minutes for the doctor. He is abrupt and impersonal. Out of frustration, she hypnotizes him, and learns that he is afraid to be warm with patients, and is afraid to take time with them, because he needs to maintain control. She has him undress, put on a gown, and then leaves him to shiver in the exam room. She tells him that he will never forget what this humiliating experience feels like.
Summary:The narrator starts out at 300 plus pounds (disgusted with herself and remote from her husband). She takes swimming lessons and gradually acquires confidence in herself as she loses weight and inches. She sometimes refuses sex with her husband, starts to stand up for herself. But her swimming and diet become obsessive; she continues to lose weight and wants to disappear.