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

As a maternal/fetal medicine specialist for twenty-four years, I’d always felt that speaking to my patients, peers and the hospital staff was one of my God-given talents. I’m very good at giving bad news to expectant parents about their fetal diagnosis—or I used to be.

All of that changed six years ago, when I had a thyroidectomy for

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A Duplexity of Maladies

Editor’s Note: This piece was a finalist in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

I have a body besieged by two chronic illnesses, namely multiple sclerosis (MS) and bipolar disorder. My health profile has been described as “abnormal,” but I’ve always resisted that term in favor of “atypical,” for my poor health renders me unusual but not inhuman.

Still, the truth is that I am essentially and profoundly sick. My imbalanced body frequently aches,

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Third Degree

Susan S. Turner

When I find a lump in my left breast I am stunned. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m immobilized. It takes me several days before I tell my partner, who has to push me into action. I get the referral from my doctor and schedule a mammogram. The radiology practice fits me into their schedule that same week, but I still have several days to sit with the unknown.

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Linda Koebner 

“Her vitals are fine,” the nurse told Besarta’s mother during a rare visit to the family’s basement apartment in the Bronx.

Besarta’s mind is also fine–sharp and clear. She asked me to use her real name in this story.

Her twenty-five-year-old face is beautiful and flawless, despite the howls of frustration, rage and pain she directs at her family, at fate and especially at Friedreich’s ataxia, the disease that controls her.

When I

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In Sickness and in Health

Larry Zaroff

Four months after having a knee replacement, I stumbled into the bathroom at three AM, not fully awake, hoping to urinate.

Losing my balance, I fell. The result was a compound fracture of my left leg–the one with the prosthetic knee. 

Gazing at my shiny white kneecap, I lost all logic, all control. I simply cried. 

At eighty, I was unprepared for this unexpected anatomy lesson: my twenty-nine years as a surgeon had

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A TAB No More

Sandra Shea

I thought of Peter when I lost my TAB status. 

I lost it on vacation. These things happen. Suddenly, one Friday night in Florida, I was no longer a TAB. Shouldn’t have been too surprised, I guess. 

But I didn’t expect it would involve a chicken.

I should explain. 

I’m a medical educator: I have a PhD in experimental psychology/neuroscience, and I teach first-year medical

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One Hundred Wiser

Anne K. Merritt

I gather my belongings: stained white coat, stethoscope, pen light, black ballpoint. I stuff the last two granola bars into my canvas bag. I glance at the clock on the microwave, which is three minutes fast. 

Twenty-two minutes until my shift begins. One minute before I will lock the door to my apartment. 

Precision is critical: ER shifts change fast and blend together, from late nights to early mornings to mid-afternoons. Suns

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Recovery Room

Warren Holleman

We’re sitting in a circle: seven women and me. Most are in their thirties and forties, and in their second, third or fourth month of sobriety. They look professional in the suits they’ve assembled from the donations closet of our inner-city recovery center.

I start things off by reminding everyone that this is the last day of the group. The last hour, in fact.

All eyes turn to Dorothy.

Dorothy is a proud

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Karen Myers

“I can feel the life force leaving me,” Mike says as he massages my legs with his rough, careful hands. He doesn’t use oil or lotion like the other massage therapists. Just his sticky, Marlboro-scented fingers. I lie in my underwear beneath a green sheet. My bony shoulder blades and crooked spine press into the table, having long since lost their cushion of muscle. 

“We’re getting older,” Mike says, even though we’ve barely

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To My Left

Anne Herbert

I walk down the airplane aisle, scanning the rows. My eyes finally fall on 15F. My seat.

My nightmare.

This window seat means only one thing to me: someone to my left. A man, to be exact–middle-aged, reading the New York Times and snacking on a bag of peanuts. He doesn’t notice as I shove my purse under the seat and sit down. My only thoughts are of blending in–with the other passengers, with the

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See One, Do One, Teach One

Lisa DeTora

Back when I was in graduate school and working as a medical writer, a physician told me that the key to learning medical knowledge was simple: see one, do one, teach one. It was a clever (and effective) way of convincing me that I was qualified to teach something–like how to write a report–that I’d only attempted once myself.

Now, on days when nothing goes right, I find myself thinking back to that

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