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The Pros and Cons of Living with a Terminal Illness

Ellen Diamond

Before I retired in 2000, I worked in a state agency as a peer counselor, or more formally, an employee assistance program (EAP) coordinator. The “coordinator” part was there because my job description wasn’t actually to do counseling; it was to assess the problem and refer the client for help.

But of course both of those processes involved counseling. We just couldn’t call it that.

In 1986, shortly after I’d begun the job,

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Unsuspected Symphony

Jeremiah Horrigan

No one goes to a hospital to heal. They go because they must–as I did three years ago, when a one-hour colonoscopy turned into a four-day surgical sleepover.

My grandfather had warned me long ago against hospitals. “You don’t want to go there,” he said. “That’s where the sick people are.” Pop died at the age of ninety-four, at home.

His warning came strongly to mind as I walked into the

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Desperately Seeking Herb Weinman

Steven Lewis

Minor chest pains that woke me early one morning–and which did not go away three, four, five, six hours later–landed me flat on my back at a local emergency room, a perversely comforting beep beep beep issuing from the monitor hanging precariously over my head.

Frankly, I didn’t really think that I was having a heart attack–as a former EMT, a devoted watcher of medical television, and a cultural cousin of Woody

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Five Years to a Cure

Ellen Diamond

Recently, while reading a post in an online chat group for people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), I spotted an intriguing comment. At an important conference, a world-renowned hematologist had referred to a “five-year timeline” for a cure.

This took me back fourteen years, to when I’d just been diagnosed with CLL. There was a Gilda’s Club

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Cadaver Happy Face

Rachel Willis

Sitting with my mother in a white-walled exam room, awaiting the surgeon’s arrival, I felt happy. 

Earlier this spring, I’d landed hard on one leg during a volleyball game and collapsed, hearing my knee make a terrible cracking sound, like all ten knuckles firing off. When I resumed playing, after several weeks of rehab, it happened again. 

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Small Talk

Greg Fuson

Turns out I’m anemic.

As in, I have anemia. When I mention this, true friends will retort, “Yeah, you’ve been anemic for as long as we’ve known you.” Ha ha. (Assholes.) That’s because a true friend is comfortable enough to make fun of you; it’s the always-polite ones you have to wonder about. But that’s not where I’m going

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A Skeptic Stands Corrected

Kyna Rubin

I’m prostrate in a Fujian hospital bed. It’s 1980 China, where I’m on a job interpreting for National Geographic–my first gig after graduate school. Fourteen-hour workdays have worn me down, and I’ve contracted bronchitis.

The clinic doctors are required to treat me with both Western and Chinese medicine, which explains the daily shots of tetracycline in my now

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Falling in Love With My Doctor

Judith Lieberman

The other doctors I consulted called him brilliant. His past patients praised his compassion. He actually responded to e-mails. And, lastly, he was known as the best-looking doctor at the cancer center. What more could I ask?

On the other hand, what choice did I have? After twelve years, I was facing a recurrence of a relatively rare oral cancer, located inconveniently at the base of my tongue. The treatment options were not

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Mistaken Identity

Surgery finished,

I finally sleep

Pushing my shoulders,
the technician wakes me 

“Come now, we need 
a chest x-ray”

Smiling, she pulls me 
into position

The x-ray machine
tight against me

Finally getting a chance, 
I ask what she is doing 

“Oh,” she says “I have
the wrong one

You are not a 64
year old male”

Lying me down, 
she walks away

As I fall back to sleep,
I wonder, now bald

what I

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Chemo? No, Thanks

Elaine Whitman

“If I were you,” said the radiologist, as I sat on the gurney discreetly wiping goo from my right breast, “I’d make an appointment with a breast surgeon as soon as possible.” His somber tone of voice, the white blotch radiating ugly spider tendrils on his ultrasound screen…neither of these made me nervous. If anything, I felt mild interest: “How very odd. He must think I have breast cancer. Or something.”

Ten days

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Carmen’s Story

Carmen Diaz

I used to be a shy woman who didn’t like the spotlight and never did any public speaking. Ovarian cancer has changed all that. Now I look for opportunities to tell my story. 

I am a 62-year-old, Puerto Rican-born, New York-raised mother of two. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2004. But for more than a year before that, my symptoms weren’t recognized. 

In January 2003, I started to suffer from abdominal

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