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Don, 1979

It’s 3:00 am. Deep in the bowels of the hospital, bright fluorescent lights softly buzz overhead in the windowless snack bar, where a row of vending machines give off a low hum.

Don, my sixteen-year-old patient, and I sit huddled in orange plastic chairs at a tiny Formica table. He is ranting, and I am listening. Neither of us can sleep. Don is awake because he is mad at the world, and I’m awake because

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Our Shared Journey

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

It took a terrifying and life-changing experience of being different for me to realize a fundamental truth: I’m the same as everyone else.

This truth has redefined my goals and reshaped the way I practice medicine.

At age twenty-nine, during my third and final year of internal-medicine residency, I received a diagnosis of a rare and malignant brain cancer called anaplastic astrocytoma. Quite

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The Waiting Room

What happened to the fish
I ask the receptionist

The plastic seaweed was toxic
She replies with a shrug

So we sit and wait watching
A string of jeweled bubbles rise

To the surface
In the otherwise empty tank

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His Mother’s Son

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

On a crisp Saturday morning in October, I drove through the early morning fog to the salon for my regular hair-coloring appointment.

I looked forward to these appointments. The hour spent there was my “me” time, during which I enjoyed lighthearted conversations with my colorist, Tina, about movies or fashion while she did my hair. These chats, which took me

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Kids Always Know

This is a story about failures. First, it’s about my inability as a pediatric hospice physician to do the one most important job in this tender space. Second, it’s about well-meaning, loving parents’ inability to do their part in that job.

Jacob was a smart, funny, elementary-age kid, great with Legos.

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Cultivation Also Starts With C

The eradication of non-native Fallopia japonica,
for all intents and purposes, must be considered a
practical impossibility. The aggressive nature of the
plant, combined with the similarly harmful side effects
of the removal options, renders it one of the most
devastating blights facing modern homeowners today.

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Cancer Update Number 12 via YouTube

He speaks of Kali maa, goddess of time
while chemo and radiation pin him to the clock.

As if confessing to a thievery of time,
when they neared one hundred years,

my parents said they never expected to live so long.
Their time unfolded like a painted fan.

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Gift of Gratitude

We all remember our patients who die, though the first patient death really stands out from the rest. This was certainly true for me.

I was just starting the second year of my internal-medicine residency. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen someone die, but it was the first time I’d seen someone who’d been alive and well, and talking to me that morning, be dead by the afternoon–a shocking dichotomy that haunts me to

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Almost Normal

His steps are wobbly. Our children hold their father’s hands to steady him as they move through the sand toward the ocean. I remain far back on the shore, shading my eyes to make out the three of them as they stand in the shallow water.

I am thinking that he looks like a ten-year-old child from this distance. My sight turns blurry, a combination of sun, sand and sorrow.

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Look Me in the Eye

I was new.

Seventeen days earlier, a discerning pediatrician had recommended tests to untangle my five-year-old son’s cluster of puzzling symptoms—headache, vomiting and double vision. The alarmed face of the radiation technician in the booth during the CT scan was my introduction to a world where I didn’t know the rules, the language or what was expected of me.

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When I thought I might die,
not eventually, but very
soon, I treated me more kindly,

as if I were my own child,
the girl I was, and the woman
I am, all melded

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