Cancer Stories

Cancer Stories: On Life and Suffering

David M. Gregory
Cynthia K. Russell
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Cancer Stories
    Book Description:

    In Cancer Stories five people share their journeys, their stories, and the suffering they faced before their deaths. These narratives chronicle the despair, hope, and love they experienced while living and dying with cancer, giving the power of the human spirit full voice. Lessons learned are presented as "gifts" at the conclusion of each of the five narratives.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7420-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-8)

    THROUGHOUT HISTORY diseases have defined eras. Tuberculosis, syphilis, leprosy, the Plague, smallpox, and polio all have their places in history. Some old illnesses are taking on new life, developing resistance to our medications and threatening to reassert their historical claims on human the body. HIV/AIDS, hantaviruses, and flesh-eating bacteria are the “new” contenders. Although textual, artistic, statistical, and media accounts of these old and new diseases offer us understanding of their power and impact, such accounts only become meaningful when a disease directly touches us. For most of us, these diseases will remain safely distanced from our lives.

    A disease...

    (pp. 9-20)

    INFORMATION IN THIS CHAPTER is technical in nature. Included are statistics for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and malignant melanoma. Risk factors (behaviours or conditions that promote the development of cancer) and general treatment protocols for these cancers are also outlined. The distance between cancer pathophysiology and living with cancer as it unfolds in the lives of people, becomes evident when this chapter is contrasted with the narratives. Science, with its passion for the cellular behaviour of cancer, remains disembodied from the lives of persons living with cancer. Science easily overpowers subjective accounts of cancer and therefore, it has been placed...

    (pp. 21-24)

    ALL DISEASES ARE REPLETE with suffering. HIV/AIDS, heart and kidney failure, cancer, and multiple sclerosis are examples of chronic and debilitating diseases which generate suffering within our lives. What these diseases share in common is how they gradually erode and undermine “the self.” They assault who we are physically, psychologically, spiritually, and socially. We struggle to protect ourselves in the face of these consumptive onslaughts. Cancer, in this book, is the lens through which suffering is examined.

    The intent of these cancer stories is not to fuel the fears that many already hold about cancer. Yes, the stories in this...

  7. 4 JULIA
    (pp. 25-52)

    JULIA’S IS THE STORY OF A WOMAN who completes a course of treatment for breast cancer and then “waits out” her disease. Her suffering takes root in the constant monitoring of an unpredictable disease. Cancer places Julia in a difficult landscape. Julia’s state is liminal; not cured, yet not in active treatment, she is located somewhere between these two realities. The following account is Julia’s narrative, her story, her experience with cancer. Dimensions of her life are explored: her early history, the presence of cancer in her family, and Julia’s beliefs about cancer. Finally, Julia invites us to travel along...

  8. 5 SARAH
    (pp. 53-82)

    SARAH IS A DYNAMIC WOMAN whose passion for life is remarkable. Other people are drawn to her. Articulate, a gifted listener, and well informed, Sarah’s opinions matter to her family and friends. She has a wonderful sense of humour and invites laughter where ever she goes. Having lived together for eight years, Sarah and Andrew plan to marry in September. The wedding will be a celebration of their relationship, a public affirmation of their love. Sarah refers to Andrew as her soul mate. After a life of hardship, tragedy, and relationship crises, Sarah has finally found love and happiness. She...

    (pp. 83-110)

    MADELINE’S BLACK HAIR is cropped short to her scalp. Her lips are bloodless, her face white. Cancer and chemotherapy treatments have faded her features. Set in this pale background are Madeline’s large, kind, expressive, brown eyes. Beneath them are deep black rings. These contrasts expose the seriousness of her situation.

    Madeline is soft spoken and petite. She grimaces as she walks. Breast cancer has metastasized to her hip joints. She favours her left hip and left leg as she leans on a black metal cane. Diagnosed with breast cancer almost nine years ago at the age of 33, Madeline has...

  10. 7 KAY
    (pp. 111-140)

    KAY GUARDS HER ABDOMEN. Still recovering from surgery, she carefully rests her hands on her belly, protecting it from further assault. Her ovaries and uterus were removed less than a month ago. Both the operative site and Kay remain tender. She sits in her garden, surrounded by the purple hues of bearded iris and giant waxed begonias. This is Kay’s space. Her place of comfort. Unlike the family members who encircle her, the flowers give of themselves and do not ask for much except water and the occasional gentle touch. Kay is a woman diagnosed and treated for ovarian cancer,...

  11. 8 JOHN
    (pp. 141-174)

    HEAVY-SET AND FLESHY, John’s belly sags over his belt. His thick blonde hair is neatly barbered. His false teeth look inexpensive and too youthful for his face. Clean shaven, he wears wire-rim glasses, a thin beige sweater, and plaid pants. John places his right foot daintily on the ground with an unexpected nimbleness from this large man. Malignant melanoma took root in this foot. His left foot thuds heavily accepting his body weight. John’s footsteps create a cancer cadence. Melanoma, the deadliest of all skin cancers, takes John on a cancer path of bodily consumption.

    John is a smoker. Self-rolled,...

    (pp. 175-186)

    WE HAVE TRAVELLED a great distance with Julia, Sarah, Madeline, Kay, and John. Each cancer journey reveals a distinct landscape of suffering. Collectively, the five voices chorus the suffering encountered with breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and malignant melanoma. The narratives call out on behalf of those who do not survive their cancer; those who are silenced. Survivors are not the only persons whose stories must be told.

    Walking with these five people has also taken us, the observers and the readers, on a journey. Our hearts ached at what happened in these people’s lives. We reflected on their circumstances and...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 187-189)