Through the illustration of a music class offered to family members at a hospital, Rita Ciresi shows us a glimpse of how it may be to have a nephew who is fatally ill with cancer. The laughter and joy, brought out simply by beating on a drum in a group, is unfamiliar to her: “To leave therapeutic drumming is like leaving yoga after completing Shavasana, the final medication pose in which peace is restored to the entire body. I know I need to get up from the mat, put on my shoes, and face the real world again.”
In Olivia M. McGuire’s “The E-mail” we get a much harsher story as she reveals how living with her sickness is not something others want to bear forever, wedding vows aside:
The last time I was admitted, I was on a respirator for a week and had to be given units of blood. My husband was told to make funeral arrangements just in case. That was the last straw for Jeremy. Though we went on with our life as usual after that traumatic event and he was still very helpful, he had checked out.Yet she ends the piece on a lighter note, still appreciating the good times they had together. This piece, although not a comfort to anyone, was refreshing as it showed the truth without any happy bows to tie it up.
One of the very unique inclusions in this issue is a section called “Short Sisters” which explores Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia through a collection of poems and photographs, collaborated on by Hannah and Marlena Chertock, two sisters who have had the condition since birth. The pieces bear all truth, and the imagery perfectly aligns with the writing. It’s definitely a section you should not pass over, but one you should spend some extra time with.
While disease and illness is a very hard topic to deal with at times, there are some pieces in the journal that do touch on a bit of the heart-warming moments. For example, Mary Ellen Olbrisch’s poem “Annie O’Malley” shows a sister who weeps for all of the forgotten patients in the hospital: “She has no time, but she stays to visit, to clean, / to let the staff know that someone is watching.” And Larry Istrail’s piece shows how sometimes it is the patients who end up helping the doctors.
Medical Literary Messenger is one of those journals that is important both for the healing processes and for the insight it brings of humanity.