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Cushioning the Fall

Meghan G. Liroff ~

Angela Harris has been here in the hospital for six hours, awaiting the results of her CAT scan. I won’t take responsibility for all of that wait time: complicated CAT scans and labs do take a significant amount of time to perform. But she didn’t need to wait the last hour.

She was waiting on me–her emergency physician–because I needed to confirm her cancer diagnosis with radiology, arrange some

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Fighting the Odds

Evelyn Lai ~

Monday

I walk into your room in the pediatric intensive-care unit as two nurses are repositioning you. Your parents stand nearby–your dad in his frayed baseball cap and khaki cargo shorts; your mom, her baggy jeans wrinkled with the same worry as the lines near her eyes. Your little sister sits near the window with a blue hospital mask over her mouth, hugging her knees; Grandma sits snug beside her, back

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Erasure

Thomas Nguyen ~

Consider what remains: chipped yellow
            paint, roman candles, wilted gardenias,
so many photographs. Accept that

time makes things distant, that his
            absence doesn’t bleed into your memories
as much as it used to. Try harder and

harder to remember the last time
            you saw him, cords wrapped around
his legs like snakes, all white

and black, hidden underneath
            neatly-pressed khakis. And

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Mirror

As I drove home after seeing my CT scan, I thought about how I could avoid telling anyone my diagnosis. It would be easy, I figured. I would wait until I had written confirmation of what I had seen. A few days passed, and I was able to maintain the deception–I loved acting, and this was an easy role for me, as protector of my family.

When the radiology report arrived, I felt like I

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Matching Rings

Joy Liu

The room is stuffy, but the woman is shivering.

Her husband stands by her bedside. An interpreter that they’ve hired to stay with her day and night stands at the foot of the bed. And then there’s me, the doctor (I’m an intern), waiting to deliver one of many sad speeches I must give today.

Smiling wanly, she struggles into a sitting position and shakes my hand.

Even with

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Comfort Care

 
When a year ago he arrived at the clinic, he was a hard-working man with neck pain, there with his expectant wife and their adoring toddler. No one had anticipated a tumor.
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Kleenex

 
Twenty minutes behind as I knocked on the exam room door and entered. No need for introductions. We knew each other well. We skipped the “asking the patient her goals for the visit.” I already knew them. Twenty years of caring for and being trusted by a patient and a friend allows that. Her goals were the same as mine. We were there to tell the truth.
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Chemo Brain

Anne Webster

Since a doctor gave me poison pills that left
my heart a swollen slug, killed off my bone marrow,
set my lungs to clamoring, I can get brain-freeze
without eating a snow cone. When I walk
my neighborhood’s knotted streets, lost drivers
stop to ask directions. After thirty years, I know
the pretzel-turns, but when they motor off, I wonder,
Did I say

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The Center of Everything

The call came at midnight. “He died,” the voice on the other end said. No emotion.

“How are you, Alice?” I asked.

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