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Susan Krigel, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist with the Midwest Cancer Alliance. Her cancer-related career has spanned 10 years, and began when she worked as a Cancer Information Specialist for the National Cancer Institute. In her role at the Midwest Cancer Alliance, she utilizes her clinical and research skills to create and conduct programs with cancer patients across Kansas and western Missouri, focusing on improving the quality of life during survivorship. Programs are delivered both in person and via telemedicine. She also participates in professional development programs for healthcare providers.

Powerful Sources of Information: What Has Touched You?

Have you come across an article or book that impacted you strongly, or that you found helpful in understanding some aspect of the cancer experience?
PUBLISHED: 7:41 AM, WED JUNE 3, 2015
A few years ago I came across a story in The New Yorker that was so powerful that it felt as if it seared itself into my brain. “The Aquarium,” by Aleksander Hemon, describes the author’s experience of losing a daughter to a brain tumor, and the retelling is so heartrending and the writing so eloquent that I felt scarred after reading the piece.

Mr. Hemon’s writing illuminated several aspects of the cancer experience:
  • How patients and families sometimes break their lives into “before and after” a cancer diagnosis
  • How parents face the death of a child
  • How patients and families may not want a lot of information about the diagnosis or treatment, as a means of protecting themselves from information that is too painful to bear
One of the most poignant aspects of the article was the sense of isolation felt by the child’s father:

“One early morning, driving to the hospital, I saw a number of able-bodied, energetic runners progressing along Fullerton Avenue toward the sunny lakefront, and I had a strong physical sensation of being in an aquarium: I could see out, the people outside could see me (if they chose to pay attention), but we were living and breathing in entirely different environments. Isabel’s illness and our experience of it had little connection to, and even less impact on, their lives.”

The sense of isolation the father experienced, the feeling that he was in a parallel universe separate from the general population, may or may not be articulated by patients during therapy, but the effects of feeling apart from others is not uncommon among cancer patients. 

There were many elements of this article that I found very thought-provoking, and I was wondering if you have come across an article or book that impacted you strongly, or that you found helpful in understanding some aspect of the cancer experience. If so, please share with other readers through my Twitter account @drsusankrigel, or comment on this post on the Oncology Nursing News Facebook page.

Talk about this article with nurses and others in the oncology community in the General Discussions Oncology Nursing News discussion group.
More from Susan Krigel, PhD
This second installment of this blog on loneliness focuses on how loneliness may compromise health and can be combatted against.
PUBLISHED: Fri March 24 2017
Exploring loneliness and its effect on health. Part 1 of 2.
PUBLISHED: Wed February 22 2017
The first section of this blog provided statistics on suicide and warning signs,
PUBLISHED: Thu August 13 2015
Have you encountered patients who have voiced the wish to kill themselves?
PUBLISHED: Wed July 15 2015
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