Author: Mosaic Science

How should you grieve?

The pain and sorrow of bereavement is supposed to get easier to bear as time passes. But what if it doesn’t? Psychiatrists call it ‘complicated grief’ – and it can be treated. Andrea Volpe reports. After Stephanie Muldberg’s 13-year-old son Eric died of Ewing’s sarcoma in 2004, she was lost in a sea of grief. Her days were long, unstructured, monotonous. She barely left her New Jersey home. When she did leave, she planned her routes carefully to avoid driving past the hospital, just a few miles away, where Eric had been treated during the 16 months of his illness,...

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Life with Li–Fraumeni syndrome

Sue Armstrong meets Pan Pantziarka, whose son George had Li–Fraumeni syndrome and lived with cancer from early childhood. One of the bleakest moments in Pan Pantziarka’s long struggle with Li–Fraumeni syndrome was when doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London told him there was nothing more they could do for his little boy. They had exhausted all options for treating his son’s cancer, “and at the age of four George was sent home to die,” he says. George had been diagnosed at the age of two with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare tumour of muscle tissue that appeared as a...

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Death sentences: the language of bad news

When discussing death, the words we choose can speak volumes. In the 1970s and 1980s, Susan Sontag wrote about the metaphors that surround TB, AIDS and cancer, arguing that their use can add to the suffering of patients, stigmatising them and encouraging victim-blaming. More recently, much has been written, often by people with cancer or other diseases, protesting against warfare metaphors. On a BBC World Service radio programme, writer and presenter Andrew Graystone says: “I had to try and love these cancer cells because I didn’t want to declare a civil war in my own body, I didn’t want...

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Breaking bad news

How do you tell someone that they’re seriously ill, or even dying? Chrissie Giles explores how doctors learn and how they deal with the stress and trauma, for both their patients and themselves. Listen to or download an audiobook of this story on SoundCloud and iTunes. I was 14 when I was told that Dad was dying. I was sitting on the floor of our lounge. Mum said that she had some news. Sensing the worst, I fixated on the newspaper open in front of me, staring at an advert for German cut glass. It was cancer, in his pancreas, and he...

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The man with the golden blood

Meet the donors, patients, doctors and scientists involved in the complex global network of rare – and very rare – blood. Listen to or download an audiobook of this story on SoundCloud and iTunes. His doctor drove him over the border. It was quicker that way: if the man donated in Switzerland, his blood would be delayed while paperwork was filled out and authorisations sought. The nurse in Annemasse, France, could tell from the label on the blood bag destined for Paris that this blood was pretty unusual. But when she read the details closely, her eyes widened. Surely it was impossible for...

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Raising my HIV family

When one Romanian doctor became ‘father’ to 16 HIV-positive orphans in 1999, many thought there was no hope for them – or for the thousands of other children infected. What followed was something of a miracle. Geta Roman tells their story. Dr Paul Marinescu has chosen to meet me on a cold winter’s day in a room stocked with plants, fish tanks and two parrots singing in their cages. It’s a room as lively as its incumbent’s life. This grey-haired man with a gentle voice acts as father to 18 – two his own children and 16 HIV-positive orphans that he took...

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How foster carers can help traumatised children recover

An extra from “I saw things children shouldn’t see” – surviving a troubled childhood Love is not enough for a child to get over a difficult start in life. Lucy Maddox asks: what is? The importance of feeling connected to others is common to the findings of many studies of what helps people to survive difficult or violent childhoods. We all need caring relationships, as much as we need our basic physical needs to be met, and many of those who have survived and thrived after a challenging start say that relationships – either with one other person or...

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