My Brain is Fried: Inside Chronic Illnesses

Many people believe that everyone lives in the same world. At an event, we all see, smell, taste, or touch the same things, and therefore, our experiences are identical. But when we crunch the information into something that goes beyond observations, unique worlds—ones we may not understand—are created.

Chariots of Conscience

I stepped aboard the chartered bus and sat in a comfortable reclining cloth seat with a pull-down footrest. It looked no different than thousands of other Greyhound buses in the 1960’s. A gleaming silver box with sleek greyhounds painted on both sides that soon would be driven by a driver who was greeting entering passengers with a smile. What I didn’t realize was in twenty-five minutes, this bus would begin a journey that would change the lives of its passengers and the soul of the country.

The Zen of Eating Cream of Wheat: A Journey Into Dementia

As a bedside hospice volunteer in San Francisco, I always have the choice of whether or not to accept an assignment. Some, I immediately know are right for me, such as sitting with a man my age who was estranged from his family and desperately wanted to reconnect with them. With others, especially those with advanced Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, I occasionally question whether the assignment makes sense—but not anymore.

What Makes You Think You’ll Live Forever?

The opening line of the pamphlet was straightforward: Join us in a workshop where you will experience your own death. Six months prior, I would have thought it an interesting exercise. But having received a diagnosis of “aggressive prostate cancer,” it had the relevance of a guidebook for an upcoming trip.

The Zeniness of Aging

It began when I dropped a ceramic pie dish for no apparent reason. Expensive, but replaceable. Not a big deal I thought, just my new clumsy self. But the next day when I tripped going up the stairs and sprained my ankle, I questioned that it was clumsiness. And when I fell off my bicycle, again for no apparent reason and tore up the left side of my body, I became concerned—really concerned.

Patient Choice: A Medical Cop-Out

It was an invitation that made no sense. I was asked to be a special guest of the South Korean Ministry of Tourism and KMI International, a company that markets medical tourism. Why me, I wondered? As I re-read the invitation, I remembered another strange offer I received in the 1970’s during a tense period in Israeli-Arab relations. “Hello Dr. Goldberg,” an official from the Jordan Ministry of Education had said. “We’d like to know if you would be interested in coming to Ramallah to conduct a seminar on stuttering therapy this summer.”