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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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August 2012


Sara Brodsky

I sit with three demented women in their nineties.
Three after-dinner conversations fly,
banging into each other,
drifting off course.
Aunt Sylvia insists she must call her mother.
Edith announces she works for her father.
Mimi declares she has two daughters.
I grab onto this shooting star.
“Where do your daughters live?” I ask. 
Mimi closes her eyes, and I watch 
as the star’s tail

Edith says she starts work early the next morning.
My aunt frets, “We’re the only people left.”
Mimi declares she has two daughters. 
I try. I ask, “What are their names?”
She shuts her eyes and loses the light.

“You see that woman?” my aunt asks. 
All eyes follow her pointing finger.
A woman in a calf-length bathrobe shuffles past.
“She’s always going to the bathroom. What does she do in there?” 
“Maybe she loves sitting in there,” I say.
Aunt Sylvia guffaws. 
Edith chuckles.
Mimi smiles.

About the poet: 

Sara Brodsky is a writer and cabaret artist near Boston, MA. Her first career was in healthcare communications, but she left that path to » Continue Reading.

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Five Years to a Cure

Ellen Diamond

Recently, while reading a post in an online chat group for people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), I spotted an intriguing comment. At an important conference, a world-renowned hematologist had referred to a “five-year timeline” for a cure.

This took me back fourteen years, to when I’d just been diagnosed with CLL. There was a Gilda’s Club near my workplace; I’d always passed it quickly on my way home. Now I found myself stepping through the doorway to hear a top specialist talk about my disease.

I recall his closing words: “Give me five years, and I’ll give you a cure.” 

As desperately as I wanted to believe this pronouncement, I felt reluctant to pin my hopes on it. Fourteen years later, my skepticism remains. 

I’ve heard many CLL experts make similar predictions, but despite great advances in research and treatment, no one with CLL has ever been cured. I’ve never doubted the doctors’ sincerity and good intent, but at times I’ve felt quite angry at their willingness to raise their audiences’ hopes in this way.

Given the facts, how can they

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Remembering John

Hilton Koppe

I remember you the day we met. It was five years ago. I was terrified. You seemed relaxed and at peace. I’d been invited to join the Lennox Head Club, in the town where I live and work; this over-thirty-five match was the first game of soccer I’d played in twenty-five years. I was the oldest on the team. You were the youngest. For you it was just the start of another season, your loping, languid style belying your skill and your speed.

I remember you sitting next to me in my car on the long drive home from a game at Nimbin. You telling me about your long journey with Crohn’s disease, about the colectomy you’d had in your twenties and about your two broken bones last year. I couldn’t stop myself from being a doctor and suggesting that you get your bone density

I remember you sitting in my consulting room. We had many years of shared conversations–me offering ideas, and you running your race in your own way, not always by the book, but always with great intelligence

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Patricia Ljutic

A flywheel 
launched from a brain
that cannot remember 
three consecutive words–
two words, maybe:

“Stop kicking…”

The third word catapults with
the what and the where,
changing channels
with every new activity,
leaving my son aimless,
scattering stones, 
snapping twigs,
belching at turned heads, 


What does stop mean with his 
thoughts ajar?
ADHD: attention 
without a footpath, 
a train without a brake.
Ignoring directions,
my son’s frontal lobe sputters
–winds and unwinds– 
toggling like a switch 
that switches…that switches…that switches,
careens him into space.


About the poet: 

Patricia Ljutic, a registered nurse, is director of the Home Health and Hospice Quality program at Vallejo Kaiser Permanente Foundation Hospital, in California. Her poetry and essays have appeared in regional and national publications including Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup for the Soul. She has won awards for her fiction and nonfiction from Writer’s Digest and Writer, respectively. Patricia loves Italian country cooking, amber jewelry, writing, bugging her son to pick up his clothes and food containers, teaching him to live with ADHD and reminding

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House Call

Kendra Peterson

I approached my father in the yard of his most recent home, a small, run-down duplex shack. His hair was whiter than I remembered, his old blue sweater shaggy. He was clipping the hedge in his careless but enthusiastic way; when finished, it wouldn’t look good, but it would look clipped. 

One of his eyes was red and tearing up. A splinter had flown into it as he trimmed the boughs above his head. He hugged me nervously, and we went inside. 

He pushed a stack of newspapers off the sofa, and we sat down and awkwardly tried to talk. The cramped living room was dirty, and dominated by boxes and piles of books. 

“Just moving in,” he apologized. He rubbed his eye, and I told him not to. 

My father was sixty-two years old. For much of his life, he’d been an accomplished university professor of American history, and a charming and eccentric character. But in the past few years, he’d taken many wrong turns: He’d increasingly used illicit drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine, and had been arrested for drug possession.

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