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No Laughing Matter

 
“You need a fifth surgery,” the maxillofacial surgeon tells me. “Heterotopic bone is again growing over your prosthetic device.”

For eight years I have endured intense pain in my left jaw. While having four surgeries, I have also undergone Botox treatment, acupuncture and physical therapy; taken a variety of medications prescribed by pain doctors, neurologists and my primary care physician; and used specially made creams, ice and heat on the affected area. Nothing has worked.

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A Call In The Night

 
I married him in-between tours of Vietnam as a Navy junior officer, and even though we divorced after eight years, we stayed in touch and saw each other over the years.
When he emailed two years ago to say he’d been diagnosed with esophogeal cancer, I was concerned. But after radiation and an operation he wrote that his first two scans were good, and the doctors were hopeful. He was always a strong

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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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Monkey Magic

 
Although I was an unpopular adolescent–never invited to parties, never asked on a date–I still had dreams. I wanted to become a teacher, a wife, a mother. Then a medical issue threatened my mother dream and, possibly, my wife one as well.

Shortly after I graduated from high school and a few days after I turned eighteen on August 8, 1965, I entered the hospital for surgery. A chronic pain on the left side of my abdomen had

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Nothing Left Unexposed

 
“Use the room over there,” she said, pointing towards the closed door to my right and handing me a clear, plastic cup with blue-twist top. “When you’re done, open the slot behind you, place the sample and close the slot door.”

It’s opening day at my cancer hospital. First peek into my innards is a urine sample, checking for protein. Too much excreted protein may signal kidney disease,

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It’s Only One IV

I was lying in the preop area, waiting to be taken in for abdominal surgery, when a nurse came along with a bag of liquid and hung it from my IV pole.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s an antibiotic,” she replied.

“I’m not scheduled to get an antibiotic,” I said.

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Pain

Ronna Edelstein

When my friend Madeline turned seventy, she celebrated in a big way: She walked a half-marathon; she hosted a cabaret for family and friends at which she sang and told stories; she traveled to China. Now, six years later, this dynamic woman has become a virtual prisoner in her apartment. She has undergone back surgery, suffered a nearly fatal intestinal infection and, after a fall, had bolts and screws placed in her

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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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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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Assaulted by “Health Care”

Sandra Shea

I’m no stranger to dealing with the medical world and its billing systems. I’m a triple cancer survivor, had knee surgery in 2012 and now have ulcerative colitis. All told, I’ve had eleven surgeries and fourteen colonoscopies. Paperwork is practically my middle name.

But the last twenty-four hours have been ridiculous.

In that time, I’ve had three different encounters with healthcare billing–each absurd in its own way, and each more challenging

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Chemo or Lourdes? Welcome to Cancerland

Michael Carbine

Dr. Peterson, the radiation oncologist, gets right to the point.

“The medical center’s tumor board has concluded that your cancer is inoperable, incurable and untreatable,” he says flatly. “Any chemotherapy or radiation treatments would be palliative in nature.”

He begins explaining the reasons behind the board’s verdict, but everything he’s saying washes out. My mind stopped working as soon as I heard the words “incurable” and “palliative.” I am sliding into

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Collateral Damage

Brenda Scearcy

Dr. Robert’s office felt right to me, with a musical birdsong soundtrack, soft lighting and fresh green tea, and I had my best friend in tow: piece of cake. In this serene atmosphere, I was sure that I’d find out what to do next to finish treating my endometrial cancer.

It’s probably gone now, since my hysterectomy two weeks back, I thought. But let’s play it safe; he’s the gynecological-cancer guru.

Like a

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