"Hospitals aren't held to any of those (FDA) standards at all," Calkins said. "So a hospital can go out and say, 'This is where miracles happen. And here's Joe. Joe was about to die. And now Joe is going to live forever.'"
Lori Wallace is not going to live forever. Before cancer, she said, she would have been attracted to the messages of hope. But now, she craves realism -- acceptance of both the world's beauty and its harshness. She wrote an essay about that for the women in her breast cancer support group.
The essay is titled "F Silver Linings and Pink Ribbons." Wallace reads the whole piece aloud, from start to finish, sitting at her kitchen table. Her son is nearby with his pet snake.
Toward the middle of the essay, Wallace writes, "My ovaries are gone, and without them my skin is aging at hyperspeed. I have hot flashes and cold flashes. My bones ache. My libido is shot and my vagina is a desert." The essay is open, funny and unflinching, just like Wallace.
She reads the final paragraph: "I will try to be thankful for every laugh, hug and kiss, and other things, too. That is, if my chemo-brain allows me to remember."
"That's what I wrote," Wallace said. "That's what I wrote. Brutal honesty."
(Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. This story is part of a partnership that includes KQED, NPR and KHN.)
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