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On Being a Patient |

Where I Live

Jeanne Macrae, MD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY 11203.

Requests for Single Reprints: Jeanne Macrae, MD, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, 450 Clarkson Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11203; e-mail, jeanne.macrae@downstate.edu.

Ann Intern Med. 2008;149(5):355-356. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-149-5-200809020-00012
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My life ended when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The doctors at the hospital where I was treated always called it “ovary cancer.” It seems like a small point, but to me, it symbolized how far I had strayed from the normal world—even the normal world of medicine where I work. I was treated in this alien place for 9 interminable months, surrounded by other words I had had no personal connection with before: optimal debulking, stem-cell support, second-look procedure, peritoneal port. Having had no personal experience with serious illness of my own, I found it horrific beyond description—one revolting sensation after another accompanied by fear and despair. The fatigue alone was nightmarish; it was not the familiar and pleasant aftereffect of exertion but a strange sensation of being trapped and held in place by a smothering force. I am in awe of those, like my patients, who can undergo medical interventions on a long-term basis.





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