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Catching My Breath

Pam Kress-Dunn

When he was five, my son Daniel went through a rough patch with his asthma. Both he and his sister Allison had been diagnosed the year before, when we were living in Colorado. I never knew if it was the fault of the pollution that too often smeared our view of the mountains, or my then-husband’s two-pack-daily cigarette habit. Or was it the unspoken shriek of anxiety?

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Imagine

Linda Koebner 

“Her vitals are fine,” the nurse told Besarta’s mother during a rare visit to the family’s basement apartment in the Bronx.

Besarta’s mind is also fine–sharp and clear. She asked me to use her real name in this story.

Her twenty-five-year-old face is beautiful and flawless, despite the howls of frustration, rage and pain she directs at her family, at fate and especially at Friedreich’s ataxia, the disease that controls her.

When I

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In Sickness and in Health

Larry Zaroff

Four months after having a knee replacement, I stumbled into the bathroom at three AM, not fully awake, hoping to urinate.

Losing my balance, I fell. The result was a compound fracture of my left leg–the one with the prosthetic knee. 

Gazing at my shiny white kneecap, I lost all logic, all control. I simply cried. 

At eighty, I was unprepared for this unexpected anatomy lesson: my twenty-nine years as a surgeon had

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Lost and Found

Julie Evans

When Mom died of alcohol poisoning on her sixtieth birthday, I was seventeen and then I didn’t have a mom anymore. 

My heart was crushed, but there was no time to grieve, because my dad was dying. A man in his late fifties, he’d battled emphysema, a brain aneurysm, colon cancer and then bone-marrow cancer. 

Over the

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The One She Calls Milk

Amy Haddad

Is for pain but has a longer name
she can’t pronounce. It’s for when he shakes.
She is not sure if the shakes
mean pain since these days
he often cannot say.

Earlier when he could say,
he would mimic the circle faces
on the pain chart the nurses held up to him.
He would try on expressions
until he found one that fit

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for the Ten Days

Madeleine Mysko

We say goodbye, her hand goes up (but not
in time to catch me), then the breach: I kiss
my mother on the cheek. Oops, I say,
you’d better wash your face. We laugh, of course–
that’s the better way to make it through
the chemotherapeutic calendar.
But it’s no joke. Her white cell count is low.
I see my mother back away from me.

I’m treacherous. I’ve not observed the Ten
Solemn Days

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Five Years Later

Steve Lewis

Evenings in the Sloan-Kettering ICU were starkly lit–nowhere to hide from the glare, bloodshot eyes trained on blinking lights, buzzing machines, masked men and women passing soundlessly through sliding glass doors, and little but hours and hours of bright, eerie luminosity ahead.

By contrast, the days then were dark. No comfort to be found in the sunrise or in that old salve about everything looking better in the morning. My wife and kids

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Telling Nick

Marianne Lonsdale

“What’s going to happen to Catie when she grows up?”

I was driving with my son, Nick, to the store when he asked this about his fifteen-year-old cousin, Catie. Nick, age eight, had just spent his spring break at Catie’s home. Blind, she was now losing her ability to talk, but she always recognized Nick’s voice. She

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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

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Cold Comfort

Mary T. Shannon

Leaning against the hospital bed’s cold metal rails, I gazed down at my husband lying flat on his back. Under the harsh fluorescent ceiling lights, his olive skin looked almost as pale as mine. 

We’d been in the outpatient unit since 6:00 am for what was supposedly a simple procedure–a right-heart catheterization to assess the blood

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Please For Tonight

Andrea Wendling

Please for tonight
Just be my wife
She is my life, my center,
She is what makes me whole
And I am finding I cannot exist
Without her

Smell like her
Like hayfields after a day of hard work
lavender and milk baths
Warm breezes blowing through still forests
All of this mixed with the soap
That we shared
That now too slowly disappears

Touch me like she would
Like I belonged to

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Enduring Guardianship

Sue Ogle

I was cool on the way to the lawyer, we’d talked it all through, no problem.

So why am I remembering the old kauri house where the wiring was dodgy
and I held my breath as she flicked the switch to turn off the power? How can
I do it without her, flick off the switch of life, decide on her fate or my own,
without consultation, alone? What if she goes and

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