A Lesson in Medical Humanities

Thank you English 1A Composition students at the College of Alameda for reading and commenting on my blog. It was wonderful to get to know you better through your responses to my posts and our discussions in class. I am looking forward to reading the essays that you wrote in response to a medical humanities topic. And to everyone else reading this post, here’s the assignment fyi:

Directions: Write a personal narrative essay on one of the following topics:

1. What lesson have you learned from a wound or a scar of your own?

2. What has a medical condition that you live with taught you about life?

3. In taking care of someone who was or is ill, what have you learned about yourself?

4. What lesson did you learn from a hospitalization (yours or someone else’s)?

5. What lesson did you learn from a medical procedure performed on you?

6. What health challenge have you overcome?  To what do you attribute your triumph?

7. What has the death of a loved one taught you about yourself and about life?

8. How did an experience with a doctor change your life for better or for worse?

Note: You may include a drawing as part of your essay. If you do, discuss it in the body of the essay.

Recently, a friend asked me to email him the titles of the readings included in the unit that I teach on Medical Humanities. I started to compose it but realized it might be something you all might want to know about, too. Here goes:

1. “Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self” by Alice Walker, a beautifully written autobiographical essay about her struggle to accept and love herself in the aftermath of her brother blinding her in one eye as a child when he shot her with a BB gun.

2. My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, a book of profound, personal stories about being a doctor; coping with her own illness, Crohn’s Disease; and healing on all levels.

3. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, a book about the joy, love, and peace to be had through living more completely in the present moment.

4. myincision.wordpress.com by me, a blog that chronicles my healing from the negative effects of infant surgery without anesthesia, informs the public about related issues, inspires through words and original artwork, and  creates a community of people interested in transformation.

5. “The Story of Shia” (<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPhIRa-zDmI&feature=related>) narrated by Dr. Wayne Dyer, in which a differently-abled young boy inspires a team of kids playing baseball to be a living example of “God’s perfection”—an expression of our inherent goodness.

6. “Fiesta, 1980” by Junot Diaz, a short story in the book Drown, in which a young boy experiences physical symptoms most likely caused by the emotional distress resulting from family dysfunction.

Introducing SIS–Surviving Infant Surgery blog

Just want to give a shout-out about Fred Vanderbom’s new blog at http://survivinginfantsurgery.wordpress.com/. Here is a place to find out fascinating information about infant surgery and read stories of those who’ve survived infant surgery. He is looking for narratives to share on this site, so please think about submitting one. Also, let other people know about… Continue Reading

The Literature of Medical Humanities

My memoir, The Autobiography of a Sea Creature, is just about ready for sending out to agents!  I am thrilled. As I scroll through each chapter, I feel really happy and proud. Part of the first chapter will appear in a book soon to be published by University of California Press, The Healing Art of Writing.… Continue Reading

Stitches and Me

David Small‘s new graphic novel Stitches is a must read. My mouth is still hanging open from the impact of this astounding work–a memoir in comic book format but definitely not funny. I can’t believe how deeply I connected with it and feel the author and I have lived parallel lives.  Or perhaps this type… Continue Reading


Here is another drawing I made in the ‘70’s, trying to work through the trauma I experienced from my surgery in infancy. This picture depicts the aftermath of the explosion of my skin. I am scattered into pieces. Below, a red (wounded) fetus remains “unborn”– a lump, inert and undelivered, left to languish. Another little… Continue Reading

"A spell is broken."

These words were spoken to me by my partner in one of our small group exercises. I just got back from the Medical Narrative Workshop at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City and in one of the workshops directed by Rita Charon, the task was to think of a difficult… Continue Reading