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April 9, 2009

PJ Hamel

P.J. Hamel bakes, blogs, and writes-here about her experiences with breast cancer. Photo by Jon Gilbert Fox.

Coverage of cancer is often about numbers: incidence figures, risk ratios, five-year survival percentages, mortality rates. All those numbers are, of course, important. But so, too, is every individual story that underlies the numbers. Here is one such story.

by P.J. Hamel

"You have cancer."

When I hear those words, I feel like I'm being told I'm going to die-not in some misty future, with my family and friends gathered lovingly at my bedside, as angels play their harps, but tomorrow. At dawn. By firing squad. I feel blank and emotionless because the concept is so big and so foreign that my usual responses simply can't encompass it. My skin prickles, head to toe, as all feeling drains out of me. I can no longer understand what the radiologist is saying; I can barely hear his voice through the panicky clamor in my head. I sit open-mouthed, nodding from habit as he smiles sympathetically, outlining the treatment he's advising.

Read article in Dartmouth Medicine magazine.