Friday, August 2, 2013

among other things

It seems to me I lost a week somewhere. Last week's post got lost in the shuffle probably because, among other things...MANY other things...I'm taking an on-line writing course this month, "The Medical Muse" with Sue Rumbaugh.

Five of us are reading and writing about health and healing, hospitals, and being or interacting with health professionals.
Let me just say that these are difficult subjects to wrap plain old words around.

Even though we are total strangers, we have been asked to access some of our most painful memories and to reflect on deeply personal write about them, to share them, and to brace ourselves for feedback.

The women who are sharing their stories with me deserve a round of applause, I think. It takes raw courage, immense effort, and deep introspection to plumb the depth of experiences like these.

For my part, I'm writing about a bout of rheumatic fever that my brother and I shared as children. I want to know how the same illness, in the same hospital, at the same time left him with emotional and psychological scars that never healed, while I recovered uneventfully and went on to study medicine. I want to tell the world about Child Life Specialists who support hospitalized children and their families. Their services can prevent the kind of long term emotional problems that can follow a child home after a difficult illness.

One of us is writing about her brother's losing battle against alcoholism.

One of us was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32, when her children were too little to understand. She has battled two recurrences already. Another woman was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and reflects on what she knows will be her fate. She worked in hospice for many years, and also watched her mother-in-law waste away from the she knows.

Another of us is a brain trauma research specialist who writes about her sister's addiction to prescription pain killers following uncomplicated back surgery.

These are familiar scenarios...and yet every story is unique, compelling, and hard to tell. Very hard to tell.

Is there a painful episode from your life that you haven't shared? Something you can't put into words? Something you just can't get off your mind?

My brother's story and the questions it raises have haunted me for years. I need to tell it so that other children can be spared his heartache.

Surely someone needs to hear your story. How can you say, "No," to them?

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.
You need to start somewhere.”  
    --Anne Lamott--
Three weeks and counting until we take off for Tanzania...among other things!


  1. You've taken on a difficult job. I wish you success at it. I hope your words will be able to help others.

  2. Sounds like your group is covering a wide spectrum of medical issues. I'm looking forward to reading about your trip again.