Two notable narratives for your consideration this week, both on the loss of a loved one, to cancer:

In “The Day I Started Lying to Ruth,” a long reported essay in New York magazine, Memorial Sloan Kettering oncologist Peter Bach captures death and grief in a deeply intimate and recognizable way. Note the measured elegance and the facile, visual explanation of complicated medicine. An excerpt:

PET scans are like that, radioactive tracers that travel around the body and measure how much work different cells are doing. And cancer cells are very active workers. The scans are like the ground seen from the air at night. When there is no cancer they look like Idaho, all quiet. Really bad news looks like downtown Chicago or Phoenix.

Hear Bach talk about the piece on The Leonard Lopate Show:

In “For Hospice Nurse, Wife’s Death was 1 too Many,” Matt Sedensky of the Associated Press tells the story of a California hospice nurse who had to turn his caregiving skills toward the person he loved most, his wife. Excerpt:

The first time was a cluster of machines and tubes, and breaths shallow and panting. Westbrook was a student nurse, the patient a big man, maybe 6-foot-4, so swollen from cirrhosis it looked as if he was pregnant with triplets. His mustache was trimmed, his flattop prematurely white. Westbrook had cared for the man for several weeks and when the time finally came, a profound sadness drove him to tears.

He felt powerless and mortal; and for the first time, this product of atheist parents felt something more.

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