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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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November 2016

Monkey Magic

Although I was an unpopular adolescent–never invited to parties, never asked on a date–I still had dreams. I wanted to become a teacher, a wife, a mother. Then a medical issue threatened my mother dream and, possibly, my wife one as well.

Shortly after I graduated from high school and a few days after I turned eighteen on August 8, 1965, I entered the hospital for surgery. A chronic pain on the left side of my abdomen had intensified, making it impossible for me to leave my bed.

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When You Don’t Know What to Hope For

My mother lies quietly in the hospital bed that has replaced her regular bed, now that she can no longer get up on her own. Every day she stares at the TV, appearing to watch it with interest. When I come into her room, she smiles and tries to say hello–in a voice that is barely a whisper. Her eyes sparkle a little. In my own discomfort, I begin asking simple questions, hoping to elicit a simple answer. She stares at me, then she stares above me, looking intently at the ceiling.

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…perchance to dream

It’s the middle of the night as I write this since I can’t sleep. I have spent too much time on Facebook, alternating between taking heart that so many people seem to feel as I do about the recent election and being dismayed to the point of nausea by some of the vitriol being spewed. Often it is both, as a writer describes some abuse or hatred aimed at her or, an epithet spat at him – but then refuted by a stranger or grandmother or teacher.

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Giving Thanks

Victor Fornari

One autumn morning, a woman called the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center on Long Island, asking to speak with me.

In more than ten years as the department’s director, I’ve received countless phone calls, but this one instantly got my attention.

“She says that she was your patient in 1984,” said my assistant, Eileen. “Her name is Anne–“

“Jones,” I said instantly.

“You don’t remember her, do you?” Eileen exclaimed.

“I certainly do,” I said. “The hospital opened this unit on Valentine’s Day, 1984, and she was the first child admitted. How could I ever forget?”

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Marla Drawing I Love Women

I Love Women

Marla Lukofsky

About the artist: 

Marla Lukofsky is a standup comedian, inspirational speaker, jazz singer, cancer survivor and writer. Her stories have been published in various narrative medicine journals, including Cell2Soul and Health Story Collaborative. With two TEDx Talks to her credit, Marla continues to share her experiences in the hopes of helping others.

About the artwork:

“I drew ‘I Love Women’ while touring the new Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where I was living. At the end of the tour, there was an art room with numerous drawing supplies on easels. A sign requested that each visitor experience being an artist by putting something down on the provided paper. This is what came out of me.

“One month later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Interesting that this woman I drew, one month prior, had one breast and was bald. Talk about foreshadowing!”

Visuals editor:

Justin Sanders

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Holiday Night Shift

My hospital’s Vice President for Nursing usually wore beautiful designer suits and stayed close to her office; but she was standing before me, in the ICU, dressed in a crisp, white uniform and nurse’s cap. I wondered why she was on my unit at 1:00 a.m. after the holiday. No surprise, there was a staffing crisis, and she was politely begging nurses on six floors of units to work a little extra.

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At Day’s End

Marc Tumerman

This is a story of two deaths. That these patients’ stories intersected on the same morning, in the same building, in two adjacent rooms, has left me thinking about them now that the day is almost done.

I was surprised to see Mrs. Stevens’ name on my schedule today. She came to the office last week, and I felt sure that she’d be too weak for another visit. But I was glad she’d made it, as I’ve become quite fond of her.

She’s seventy, and dying of metastatic lung cancer. She’s a lifelong smoker, but at this point I’m not worried about cause and effect, accountability and responsibility. None of that changes what I must do now as her physician.

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Pris Campbell

His heart
is a battlefield
of scar tissue
and hardened walls
from radiation.
So certain the tumor
in his throat would take him
to his knees, wrench his life away,
they brought forth
the beast…that fairy tale
of modern medicine
gone wrong…and now

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