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

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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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June 2015

Blueberry Picking

Roz Levine

We ran from an outbreak of polio
Abandoned the Bronx for a summer hideaway
In the shadow of the Catskill Mountains
Each day we traipsed craggy trails
Stooped low beneath clear skies
Plucked mounds of dark blues
From bushes bursting with ripe fruit
Filled our baskets to overflow

It should have been all this:
Sunshine on eight-year-old skin
Fresh air on innocent girl soil
Thoughts of jam on toast for breakfast
Happy days of laughs with the family

When anxiety overwhelms the mind
Blueberry picking equates to worries
Of prickly thorns and bee stings
Sunburns and infected blisters
Rattlesnake bites and botulism in jelly jars
Everything, a gravediggers’ paradise

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Valhalla Over Connacht Shea

Valhalla Over Connacht

Sandra Shea

About the artist: 

Sandra Shea is an associate professor at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.  “As a colon and skin cancer survivor, I know WAY too much about how health care works from the inside!  Ireland holds a special place in my heart, as my father’s family ‘s homeland, as a place where I spent my junior year of college, and a place to which I have returned whenever possible.  My most recent trip, in 2013, was the first trip with a digital camera and an iPad, as evidenced by an average of 200 photos per day!”

About the artwork:

“Twelve months of chemotherapy will get to you physically, mentally, financially, and spiritually.  As it plodded along I dreamed of places I would rather be.  Almost any place would do, but mostly I wanted to go back to Ireland, home of my father’s family.  This

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I Need a New Stethoscope

Jenni Levy

I need a new stethoscope. I have to wrap my fingers around the fissures in the tubing to make this one work.

For me, these days, listening to the patient’s chest is more a ritual than a means of diagnosis. After twenty years as a primary-care internist, I now work full-time in hospice and palliative care. I spend more time listening to stories than to hearts and lungs. Even so, there’s something about leaning over and finding the right spot on the chest that makes me feel like a real doctor and helps my patients know that they’re being cared for.

Every morning I put this stethoscope around my neck and walk down the hall of our inpatient hospice unit, and every morning, I forget until I touch the first patient. I wonder about the silence in my ears, and then I remember and close my fingers over the stiff, unresponsive black tubing.

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Say It Ain’t So

Dominic Donato

I am in my twenties.

I am a student in dental school. My seven classmates and I have gathered, notebooks and pens in hand, for the first day of our ten-day rotation at the Veteran’s Hospital oncology department.

Dr. Steele, a published expert in oral cancer, instructs us to follow him to the outpatient clinic. Some of those he’ll examine are initial consultations; others are follow-up exams. All are U.S. veterans. Many are homeless alcoholics, whose lifestyle, we’re told, predisposes them to oral cancers.

“I want each of you to take a look at this lesion on the right lateral border ventral side of the tongue,” says Dr. Steele in resonant tones. We bob our heads to find the right line of vision. The lesion is nothing more than a small red spot. Dr. Steele applies dye to the spot, examines the patient’s head and neck lymph nodes, then dismisses him.

“Well, what do you think?” he asks.

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women with lymphedema deCabrera

Walking Beside Me

HeatheRoden Vda. Cabrera (submitted by Sara Cohen)

About the artist: 

“I paint, draw, work in terra-cotta, glass, stone and wood. I like mixed media, and I adore metallics and glitter. Visually, I am deeply concerned with the impact of light upon a scene or an object. My themes reflect my inner and outer worlds. I often paint issues that concern me: conditions in jail, impact on victims, and medical realities. I don’t try to be controversial; however, it is imperative to me that my work be authentic–no calendar art for me! I only do art to please myself. It is my spiritual affirmation.”

About the artwork:

“The title Walking Beside Me echoes a line from Juan Ramón Jiménez’s poem Yo No Soy Yo (I Am Not I):

Soy este
que va a mi lado sin yo verlo…

I am this one
walking beside me whom I

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Terms and Conditions

If you are writing about a patient, his or her identity must be protected. Either you should obtain
written consent to publish the piece or you must disguise a patient’s identity so that his or her
friend or family member would not recognize the individual. In this case, the name must be
changed. Other helpful changes might be: sex; physical characteristics (e.g., age, hair or eye
color, body habitus); presenting illness; occupation; family constellation (number or age of
children). Please let our editors know what you’ve changed. If you have questions please use
the Contact Us form to query our editors.

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