Suspicious Findings

One summer morning, I found myself in the hollow tube of an MRI. A technician pressed foam earplugs into my ears, gingerly placing oversized headphones on top. The hospital’s artificial breeze rustled my gown. Into the imaging machine I went: face down, breasts out. As contrast dye entered my veins, I tasted metal. A symphony…

Rethinking Pink: U.S. Breast Cancer Activism in the 20th Century

Sarah Roth // Gracia Buffleben, a queer woman living with metastatic cancer, ascends the stage to receive an award at the Women and Cancer Walk. It is 1996 in San Francisco, and hundreds of women, families, and supporters sprawl in a park in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. Tables are set up around…

Hope on Trial

Sarah Roth // My parents shared a broad, brown desk in their home office. In the years of my mother’s struggle with ovarian cancer, a foot of papers, envelopes, and printouts were stacked on the desk, documenting clinical trials for which she might be eligible. For a time, the desk, with its thick layer of…

Grief at a Distance

Sarah Roth // This week marks the anniversary of my mother’s death, and my family had planned to gather at her gravesite in Florida. For the past year, her plot has remained unmarked: a rectangle of grass with a hint of a pale line at its edges. We had spoken of unveiling the gravestone, attending a service to recognize her Yahrzeit, and coming together for a week of shared feeling and mourning. The past year has been measured with reference to this point, like the sign of a lighthouse marking a horizon thick with fog. Like so many other families in this season of coronavirus, as the date grew closer, our plans became ever more uncertain. Today, on her anniversary, we remain scattered across the country. Some of us are in Florida; others are in Washington or Colorado or Maryland. I write from my apartment in Baltimore, where I have hunkered down for the past months, and where I will remain for the foreseeable future.

Light and Shadows: On Care and Loss

Sarah Roth // My mother and I divide up her Hospice bags: two nondescript fanny packs holding morphine, liquids, and nutrition. Artifacts of the land of the critically ill, they are contraband here in the clinic.

Reading into Diagnosis

Sarah Roth // The Genetics Department at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. displays hundreds of pamphlets in the waiting room, stacked at every corner table. Some of them I recognize, having revised them back in the office. The pamphlets have titles like: What is My Family Tree Telling Me? and PKU and You….