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Living on the Edge

“How are you adapting to your diagnosis?” the specialist asked. “What changes have you made in your daily life?”

“I take the phone with me to the barn,” I told her. “That way if I need help I can call.”

She looked at me gently, as one might regard a confused child. Even then, I didn’t expect the heavy blade of her answer:

“There wouldn’t be time.”

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This Is How You Cope With Cancer

Bleach your hair,

get drunk on champagne,

pretend the left and right halves of your face are the exact same,

ignore and deny it, laugh loudly–too loudly,

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King of Pain

King of Pain

I am a retired union plumber with the state of Illinois. I’ve had laparoscopic surgery on both knees, a lower back surgery that required two stainless rods and I’m not sure how many screws, and three cervical fusions. I now suffer from neuropathy (nerve dysfunction) in my feet. They’re painfully numb: A shoe could come off, and I wouldn’t know it. I find it difficult to get around–not to mention embarrassing when I go back

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Pharmacy Visit

You are a big man, a little heavy, but nothing
that can’t be fixed by daily, brisk walks
or swept away by a
dose of cancer and a blast of treatment.
You have been called from your glass enclosure
to help me.

A productive, bronchial cough
is still with me–too long.
Chinese practitioners call this a lurking pathogen
tossing antibiotics into my weary kidneys

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I’m Still Here


Inez Martinez as told to Erin McCoy ~

Editor’s Note: Having just finished her first year of medical school, Erin McCoy became a summer intern for Pulse and embarked on a project to collect patient stories through interviews. One day, a family-medicine resident at a Bronx family health center told her about an interesting lady in Exam Room 8. “I go there,” Erin says, “introduce myself and explain my mission. She agrees to speak

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Too Close for Comfort

Andrea Eisenberg ~

Many years ago, on a busy day in my obstetrics-and-gynecology office, one of my partner’s patients came in for “bleeding, early pregnancy.” Since my partner wasn’t in that day, I saw the woman, whose name was Sarah. After we’d talked a bit, I examined her and did an ultrasound. As I’d expected, she was having a miscarriage. Feeling sorry that Sarah had to hear it from me, rather than from her

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It Changed My Life Forever

 
Today is the first “back to work” day of the new year. Twenty-six years ago today, I got my HIV positive diagnosis. I’d had my blood tested prior to a vacation in Palm Springs, and my first appointment of the year was with my physician. He didn’t hem or haw or mince words–told me straight out. I was stunned but stoic. In my heart, I had expected it. I had been a sexually

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Searching for My Super Power

 
My name is Tamara, and I have a blood cancer, Polycythemia Vera, which means in my bone marrow, the essence of my being, I have a mutation. Like the X-Men, only I have yet to discover my super power.
You see it is freaking rush hour up in here. Too many red blood cells and platelets and not enough neurotransmitters or oxygen, and what this means is I feel like the life and

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All Kinds of Dark

 
4 a.m.

If I wake up in the middle of the night, that’s what time it will be, give or take 15 minutes: 4 a.m. No matter what the season, it’s dark at that time of night, it’s lonely, even the cats are snoring. If a window is open, I can hear if an owl, a coyote or, rarely, a whippoorwill or chuck-will’s-widow is crying into the night. If it’s a warm autumn night, I can hear

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Fistula Patient on Four

When I joined the surgical team, she was already a fixture, having languished there on the fourth floor for over two months. Attractive, in her early thirties, she wore little but skimpy lingerie–garb that seemed at odds with her belly, criss-crossed as it was with surgical scars and small holes that weeped gastric juices and intestinal fluids. On the team’s daily rounds, the surgeons would don gloves, avoid eye contact with her, hem

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The Vulnerability and Freedom of Nakedness

There are many ways to be naked. There’s physical nakedness, and there’s also the nakedness of feeling vulnerable. When my body and hence my life have been out of control, it has felt like nakedness. When I have had no covering against the elements, whether physical or psychological, I have felt naked.
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Riding the Rails

William Toms

Our train starts to move slowly down well-traveled tracks. Sunny out,
clouds in the distance. We pick up speed.

We offer obligatory greetings,
courtesy How you feelings?
We both know why she’s here
we defer that talk
as if deferring for a few minutes will make it easier.

The trackside turns to trash, human detritus, rusting hulks without utility.

I edge closer, negotiating perfunctory reviews–

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