WALKING THROUGH THE FIRE: A Hospital Journal by Laurel Lee


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Twenty-seven weeks into her third pregnancy, Laurel Lee discovered she had Hodgkin's disease, a systemic disorder with an uncertain prognosis, and this poetic journal through the ensuing months of treatment records her fears and stubborn refusal to knuckle under to pain and indignities. She immediately dismissed the idea of an abortion, which increased her medical liabilities; specialists fought over priorities, as radiation treatments (risking fetal retardation) were scheduled, postponed, rescheduled. Frequent hospitalizations disrupted her home life even after Mary Elisabeth was born healthy; while her kids played doctor and heaped cereal on the floor, husband Richard sent her clothes to Goodwill and finally filed for divorce: ""'Have you ever seen two dogs and one has been hit by a car,' he said. 'The other just walks around it and howls, not knowing what to do.'"" One is reminded of the manic energy and grim resolution of the Helen Yglesias' heroine in How She Died. Largely through Christian faith and incredible resilience, Laurel kept her sanity and her sense of humor, remembering the words of a favorite physician: ""It should be required that every graduating doctor first produce a bowel movement in a horizontal position with three witnesses present."" The biblical allusions, occasional rhymes, and ineffectual line drawings won't appeal to everyone but the author's fortitude and lack of bitterness are truly remarkable.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1977
Publisher: Dutton