Maeve Binchy:

She sort of knew it was coming, but still, the day it was confirmed it was a shock. The kind man who told her had been a colleague and friend from the very early days when they had all started pre-med together.

“I’ll miss the millennium party,” Nora said. That was her immediate reaction to being told she had six months to live. Nothing about leaving the husband she had loved for years or about not seeing her children grow up and marry, or not knowing her grandchildren.

Read the full story from the Irish Times archive >>>

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Elysha Brennan:

‘I had a biopsy and when the results came back the doctor said, very matter-of-factly, “Elysha, we found a tumour of white cells and something called Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” I didn’t know what Hodgkin’s was. I didn’t really hear the word tumour, to be honest. I heard “white cells”, and white cells means inflammation. I still didn’t freak out. Then Mum started to cry. She said, “It’s cancer.”’

From the ‘My health experience’ series in the Irish Times >>>

Maria Woulfe: “When my breast consultant entered the little room, my diagnosis was etched all over her face. I cried and bawled and asked the most ridiculous of questions. I do remember, however, being told that we wouldn’t be able to have any more children and was absolutely gutted. I came home that day into the conservatory of my mother’s house where she had been minding my five-month-old son. My mother and father just broke down before me.” (Examiner) >>>

Cancer Ward, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Cancer Ward, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

General consensus about the text:
 There were mixed emotions about the text, although the plot of the story was a tad cliché, it
still fulfilled the role of a good read. As the cliché acted as a contrast to communist soviet
Russia.
 Everyone agreed that there was some pity felt for the main character.
 The character’s personalities were all enjoyable, and it was interesting to watch them grow
and develop.

First Topic: The main character
 The main character in this extract was an important, wealthy and powerful Russian man.
 Diagnosed with a cancer.
 Although he is a powerful man, this scares him, becomes more superstitious.
 Tries to use his wealth and power to get better healthcare and fails.
 The hospital makes him feel mortal
 Although he doesn’t have the nicest personality, we all empathised with this character.

Second topic: How the text is a contrast to communism in Russia
 The whole text really acts as a contrast to communism in Russia.
 The main character may have worked hard to get where he is today, so maybe should be
able to use his wealth for an advantage.
 Russian expressions in this text emphasise this.

Third Topic: Doctors coming across as powerful
 Although there aren’t many moments in this text that involve doctors, it is interesting to see
how they are portrayed when they are involved.
 The main character goes into a lot of detail when describing the doctor in his opening scene.
 We agreed that this was to emphasise the power and effect the doctor had on him and also
how it affected him.

April 2013
Oncology Day Ward, Tallaght 

Assume nothing. Nothing. No, Mrs Glib, you can’t possibly know 450 women in Waterford who had the very same thing as Katty here and who are all flyin’ now.

Katty sucks on a chunk of pineapple – it’s supposed to kill the foul, metallic taste for a few minutes – and wiggles her weirdly numb toes. Is that another toenail whisperingsayonara ?

A tentative rub of her left eyebrow . . . hmmm, that’s gone too. Meanwhile, there’s eye-liner leeching into her lashless, watery eyes, making them redder than a hellhound’s. (Times) >

Emma Hannigan (author of Talk to the Headscarf about her battle with cancer): “So I knew it was the way I could make myself safe, and that’s why I did it with ease of mind. I know Angelina Jolie has written that she felt empowered by what she did, and that’s how I felt.” (Examiner) >

[From an article in the Guardian some time back >] The book, Fuera de Foco (Out of Focus), chronicles the former Miss Venezuela’s battle with breast cancer, a gruelling eight-month regime of chemotherapy, radiation and mastectomy. It has broken taboos about female beauty and moved breasts from the realm of aesthetics to that of health and disease.

Her blunt and in some places breezy description of the disease, mastectomy and reconstructive surgery has made the book a bestseller in just two months and attracted a media spotlight.

“When I got sick and knew my breasts were sick it’s like I didn’t want them any more. I wasn’t fond of them. I was angry at them. So getting rid of them, even though it was horrible because I had all these scars, meant I felt better.

“It’s painful to look at yourself in the mirror. Your face gets swollen. You lose every single hair in your body – your eyebrows, your eyelashes. You become some weird animal or something, you don’t recognise yourself. That was scary. Especially because my job has to do with my looks. I had to look decent and not appear sick.”