August 2022


Here’s what happens when your insides twist and lock. The key? Well, there might not be one.

At first, your innards are just tender. Maybe it’s only the havoc of your upcoming vacation. What the hell, you think. It will go away on its own, right, like a pimple or a hangover.

Food Fight

My name is Ronna, and I have an eating disorder.

Saying the words is easier than treating the disease. Change has never come easily to me. While my disorder is rooted in my past, it has flourished in the years since COVID infected the world.

Cancer during COVID

The sky darkens outside my window in Shanghai. My grandma used to call this plum rain: rains during the hot months, when plums wither away, turning juice to clouds, waiting to flood the dry land.

In the spring, my grandma tasted blood in her mouth. A week later, she was diagnosed with oral cancer. Doctors said it was merely a benign tumor, a natural part of aging. But within weeks, her body had shrunk like a deflated balloon and eating was painful. A few months later, the tumor had metastasized, spreading into her lymph nodes.

Knowledge Is Power

“Knowledge Is Power” proclaims a magnet on my refrigerator. The magnet is from the New York Public Library, but the sentiment is from Francis Bacon—and I embrace it as if it’s absolutely and invariably true. That is, when faced with a quandary in an unfamiliar area, I start digging for information with the intensity of a terrier whose prey is just out of reach. Especially when I’m faced with medical quandaries.

My Abortion Story

I am a seventy-year-old Jewish grandma and a retired women’s health nurse and educator. I’ve enjoyed many blessings.

And I had an abortion in 1974.

Three months ago, the constitutional right to abortion was reversed. Reflecting on that Supreme Court decision led me to share my own experience. I hope my story will help other women considering an abortion to know that they are not alone.

All Rashed Out

What will tomorrow bring? This is the theme running in my head today as I zip in and out of patients’ rooms: listening, comforting, joking. And, just trying to get through the day.

They aren’t the only ones who are sick. I am still rashed out on my face and neck from one month ago.

Post-COVID, Round 3. A rash. Intense itching. Angioedema (swelling). Shortness of breath. My allergist and dermatologist are scratching their heads, trying to figure this out.

Our Hands

Braid a child’s hair in precise beaded rows

And shave a scalp just enough to access
Skin flap, skull, brain, tumor

Fold over a learner’s fingers to guide a needle
This angle here with this much pressure
Slide together into a hidden space

Ideally and Sometimes

Ideally, coping is sitting down and having dialogues with myself, friends, or good colleagues about what bothers me. It is asking for advice and sharing my thoughts. It is writing down what I can do to solve problems and then creating an action plan.  

Sometimes, however, coping is … 

Us and Them

I am a second-year medical student—an older medical student, married, with a five-year-old boy and a baby. In medical school, people like me are called nontraditional—a euphemism for peculiar, different.

Today a group of my classmates and I have gathered, wearing our white coats, at a basketball court in Barrio Bélgica, in the south of Puerto Rico, where I’m completing my first two years of medical school. We’re here to visit with some of the local people as part of our Community Medicine course.

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