What is it about?

This piece of prose is a narrative account told from the perspective of a medical oncology scribe. It juxtaposes the story of "Diane," a woman who is diagnosed with and eventually succumbs to cancer, with the life of a mourning dove and her chicks living in the narrator's backyard. The parallel narratives serve as metaphors for each other, exploring themes of struggle, survival, loss, and hope.

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Why is it important?

The piece handles the subjects of illness, life, death, and grief - inevitable parts of the human experience. Rather than presenting a linear narrative of Diane and her disease, it intertwines her journey with a story from the natural world to give the story a broader context to human experiences.


This was one of the first experiences of patient death I experienced as a new person in healthcare. I think about this patient frequently. One of my goals with this piece was to emphasize the power of narrative medicine/storytelling in navigating complex emotions and experiences. Writing has the possibility to shed light on what is normally in the shadows. It is a way to find solace and strength even in the most challenging of times. I also wanted to nuance the perception of the public toward palliative care - that it is not giving up, but instead an opportunity to find agency in unimaginable situations. My hope is that interweaving the stories of Diane and the mourning doves provides a reminder of the resilience of life, even after death. Even when we are gone, the ripples we have left remain.

Brian Smith
Stanford University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Five visits with Diane., Families Systems & Health, June 2023, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/fsh0000775.
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