Here’s what they should have told you: “We found cancer in your lymph nodes, your liver, your lungs and your brain. It explains your weight loss, your difficulty breathing and your loss of appetite. This wasn’t just your depression, like you thought. It started in your lungs, and now it’s everywhere. This cancer has been growing for quite some time. You cannot, even with the strongest medications and the longest surgeries,
I need to see Justin before my workday commences. I’m a social worker at the outpatient cancer center where Justin has been treated for an aggressive colon cancer.
Seeing him today means visiting him in the hospital, up the road from the center.
It’s almost surreal.
When I first met Justin, nearly two years ago, he looked every bit the linebacker–well over six feet tall, with a girth
Meg Lindsay ~
After 10 days in a hospital
you regain the ability
to walk albeit with a cane so I put the commode
out in the hall as you are laughing a bit more,
the gleam back, but the chemo starts
and the next morning again pain
in your ribs and sternum
and now it burns
in your chest and again you
Allie Gips ~
In broken English, against the backdrop of the emergency department’s chaos and clatter, Mr. Simon relayed his story: unintentional weight loss, gradually yellowing skin, weeks of constipation. He punctuated his list of devastating symptoms with laughter–exaggerated but genuine guffaws.
Over the next few days, as the medical student responsible for his care, I was also responsible for handing him piece after piece of bad news. An obstructing gallstone in
City snow blankets my little mother in her hospital
bed in her bedroom, no wonder she is confused,
pointing to things in the air, on the ceiling that only
she can see. She might be hailing a cab. She raises
her head to tell me, Four members of the Isenberg
family came to visit and one was Mima Ettel,
who is already buried in the
Jacqueline Dooley ~
I was unprepared
for the feel of your hair pulling free
with every brushstroke.
I wasn’t up to autumn
from the side of your hospital bed.
It seemed too much
for the universe to ask.
But, like you, I was choiceless
as I drove through November streets
the colors, drained and faded,
like your face when the chemo went
Zachary Reese ~
“Does a rock float on water?” I asked the haggard woman lying in the ICU bed.
I was an intern, in the first rotation of my medical residency, and Mrs. Jones had been my ICU team’s patient for the past week. Over that time, she’d looked more and more uncomfortable, constantly gesturing for her breathing tube to be removed.
Mrs. Jones tried to form words in response to
Dianne Avey ~
So this is what it feels like
to be on the other side.
Hollowed out exhaustion,
rimmed with the chaotic clutter
of struggle and hope.
Like the beach after a tsunami,
all those once-important items,
now floating around uselessly.
I don’t know how to start this life
This morning, they came
and took the bed away.
Scott Janssen ~
“You need to get here now!” The nurse whispers anxiously. It’s after midnight. One of our hospice patients has just died at home, and her husband is threatening to shoot himself when the funeral home shows up.
“Has the funeral home been called?” I ask.
“Does he have a gun or weapon?”
“We’re out in the country. There are deer heads on the wall.”
Sara Bybee ~
It’s 2:02 pm when my pager beeps. I pull it out and read: “Juan may have just passed. Going in now.”
As a social worker in the region’s only cancer specialty hospital, I provide emotional support for patients and their families–including talking about their wishes for end-of-life care.
Juan is a sixty-five-year-old Ecuadorian man with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I’ve known him for about a year. Polite and easy
Jan Jahner ~
They came up from the center of the earth, The People
where sky speaks to corn,
speaks to cottonwoods, to runoff in the wash.
Living beneath black-slashed canyon walls
home to sheep and weavers.
He is one of them, my patient
one of the ancients; leathery face carved and quiet
she is his daughter, fingers on the covers,
ready should he wake.
Nadine Semer ~
“She doesn’t like vanilla,” Mr. Wyatt says, staring at the nutritional drinks sitting on his wife’s bedside hospital table.
I’m here as the palliative-medicine consultant. As my resident Susan and I stand still, taken aback, Susan’s expression says it all: She’s dying, and her husband is worried about which flavors she likes?
Mrs. Wyatt, fifty-six, came to our urban hospital’s emergency room with abdominal pain. She was admitted and