All the [medical] world’s a stage! In elegant prose, with Felliniesque flights into whimsical metaphor, physician-historian-playwright Charles Hayter describes his encounters with cancer, as a doctor and as a son, and how the experience changed him as a person. 

Just as he finishes his residency training as a cancer specialist, his stoic physician father develops cancer. The story of that family illness is interwoven with vivid case histories of patients, recounted personally rather than clinically. These patients display many of the characteristic reactions and behaviors of his own father. 

Several other themes are prominent: the losing battle against death – or rather Death--who is a character lurking in the corners of the consultation rooms; the tensions of a son trying to please his difficult parents with advice and understanding that they seem not to want; the bravery of a gay man coming out to his wife and children to find a new place in the world. 

These struggles are placed on a background of the nebulous status of radiation therapy, a maligned and misunderstood specialty.


Sensitive to the arrogance and obfuscation of his clinical colleagues, Hayter advocates for truth in all relationships and for the underappreciated power of radiation therapy in cancer care.  His experience as playwright and actor infuses the telling with immediacy and splendid humanity.


University of Toronto Press

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