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Tag: coping with illness


Melanie Di Stante

In 2000, my husband Brian was diagnosed with Stage IIIB Hodgkin lymphoma, which has since become a prominent part of our lives. My children and I belong to Gilda’s Club, a cancer support community, and recently we were asked to help record a promotional video to be featured at a fundraising gala for the local chapter and on the club’s website.

I’m not a “spotlight” kind of girl, and I

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Chemo Brain

Rick Monteith

One weekend about nine-and-a-half years ago, I flew from Minneapolis, where I live, to Atlanta for a publishing conference. A colleague and I were to make a presentation to the vice-president of one of our major customers.

For a couple of weeks I’d been plagued by a sore throat, but I’d written it off as allergies or a virus. When I tried to begin the presentation, though, all that came out was

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First Shower

Kristen Knott

“Do you need help getting undressed?” Jon asks from the doorway of our bedroom, one hand holding his BlackBerry, the other tucked into the front pocket of his baggy jeans. His head is slightly tilted, his eyebrows arched, highlighting his forehead wrinkles.

His phone vibrates, drawing his eyes from me to the incoming message. I wait.

Jon reads, ponders and then looks up, half-absorbed in what he’s just read, and

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A Second Farewell

Julie List

Two years ago, I’d just begun my new post as clinical supervisor at the caregiver-support center at a large medical institution. The center offers emotional and practical support to families of patients who are dealing with serious illnesses and hospitalizations.

In my short time there, I’d already encountered many memorable clients, but somehow I felt a special connection with one woman, Maria. A small, intense woman with piercing dark eyes, she often

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Never Leaving Wonderland

Jacqueline Dooley

Three years ago I spent the entire month of September by my daughter’s side in her hospital room. From Ana’s window, we watched summer fade into fall as we waited, day after day, for her to be discharged, which finally happened in early October.

During her forty days in the hospital, Ana was diagnosed with an obscure, slow-growing cancer called inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor. The tumor, roughly the size of a cantaloupe,

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Night Call

Heidi Johnson-Wright

When I was nine years old, I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that triggers an inflammatory response of the joints, causing swelling, stiffness and severe pain. The disease sped through my body like wildfire.

By the time I was fifteen, my hip joints were utterly ruined. Just getting out of bed was a slow, carefully choreographed sequence of movements, with frequent pauses to allow the pain to

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The Eyes Have It

Johanna Shapiro

If you’re lucky
the doctor enthused
these drops will save your sight

Still trying to get my mind around
this new fact
that I was going blind
I asked about side effects

Hardly worth mentioning,
he said
his back already to me
as he noted in his chart
the decline and fall of my vision

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Scarves: a DVD

Holly Zeeb

I watched her
fling and tie
those scarves
so gracefully,

to adorn
her beautiful
shining head,
as if doves
might flutter forth.

Her steady voice
was gentle,
as if it were
an easy thing

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The Cancer Center

Nancy Tune

First impression: New and well appointed,
staffed by friendly people and my favorite, irony.
In the clinic hallway a woman plays a harp.
I have come to learn about the process of
my dying; surely this is meant to shake me
free of dread and make me laugh. It doesn’t, quite.

During treatment: I know where to go,
my focus straight ahead. Walkers,
wheelchairs, frightened

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Friday Before Christmas

Deborah Pierce

On the Friday before Christmas, I received an unusual gift.

Like any job, being a primary-care physician has both challenges and rewards. The challenges are many, and the rewards are often fleeting–a smile or a “thank you” from a patient or coworker, for instance. And I’ve found that being a teacher of medical students and residents brings an additional layer of rewards and challenges.

One Friday before Christmas, these arrived in an especially

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She Who Shows Up

Dianne Avey

She who shows up
to guide tiny fingers
toward ripening blackberries
and the spiral
of a moonsnail shell

Late summer treasures

She who shows up
with tea and bread
all the time in the world
to walk hand in small hand

My son beautifully distracted

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Busting Grandma Out

S.E. Street

I had been in London on business all of seven hours when my son, Tom, called me at two in the morning from our hometown, Sydney, Australia. 

“Grandma’s had a fall. She’s been taken to the hospital, but she’s all right.”

My mother’s having a fall was nothing unusual; she had always been an unpredictable fainter. My husband and children and I called it her party trick, making light of it to soothe

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