The C2S blog draws on the arts, the social and biological sciences to explore the many meanings of health and "dis-ease." Designed to be a locus where patients, their families and professionals can meet on a level playing field, it is the natural off-shoot of the Cell 2 Soul Online Journal. We encourage the submission of ideas, essays, poems, stories, humor, and timely reviews relating to the humanities and health care.
The nineteen eighties was a decade with nascent promise. India had a young Prime Minister in Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, the forthcoming telecommunication revolution was being widely discussed and a bright new future was being promised to the teeming millions. Thrissur or ‘Thirushivaperur’ (the town named after Lord Shiva) was a small town in central Kerala with a rich and vibrant culture. Thrissur was widely known as the cultural capital of God’s own country, Kerala. In the eighties, the government medical college was a new institution having been established in the early nineteen eighties.
Dr P Ravi Shankar spent over twelve years in the Himalayan country of Nepal and enjoyed trekking in the wonderful hills. He is at present a faculty at the Xavier University School of Medicine, Aruba, Kingdom of the Netherlands. He has a keen interest in the medical humanities. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Persistent scratches ripping
through the tranquility of the night,
and bedsheets dusty with flaked skin,
mingled with dried blood in the mornings.
Her skin stained with the purple sting of potassium permanganate,
burning from the relentless scorch of tea tree oil, smothered in topical
Bandaged to retain moisture. Unbandaged to promote air flow.
A blur of diagnoses and
“diagnoses” paraded by,
convictions by professionals and well-meaning relatives:
“No heat, no chlorine, no sunshine, no pollen. No butter, no wheat, no potato chips,
no fat, no chocolate, no seafood, no meat, no sugar, no salt!”
Too much American food. oxidized oils,
pesticides, hormones-those damn Oreos, all to blame.
“This doesn’t appear to be a food allergy, but we can run some tests…”
“You see, the American doctors don’t study this. This is a question of inner
A question of hotness and coldness of the body, toxicity, mystery, cortisone
And a vicious cycle of irritation, scratching,
skin, infection, itchiness,
scolding, shouting, scratching…
And the mingling of voices of
authority spilled over the reddened cracks in her skin
and filled her heart with guilt and inadequacy.
“You are the only one who knows your body. Only you can know what to do for yourself-”
And the bitterness of her condition was accentuated
with the bitterness of soups and broths and
darkly resplendent with Chinese medicinal herbs, kernels, stalks, and shoots.
disappointment and failures came desperation
Cycling through past attempts, various diets.
The doctors’ echoes weren’t very much help-
the relief provided through the prescribed creams and ointments was ephemeral.
Though some knowledge provided comfort - like the dreaded skin prick testing -
back gridded into a 5x7 rectangle and stabbed thirty-five times
to reveal her body’s weaknesses
towards watermelon, shrimp, milk, Kentucky bluegrass,
hay, walnuts, chicken, turkey, sea bass, lobster, dust, mold, and cockroaches -
Her skin still burned and flared, cracked and red and dry and unforgiving,
I’ve watched the parade
of well-meaning people walking in and out of her life: smiling
pediatricians, puzzled dermatologists,
vehement relatives. No one is to blame.
I’ve watched her sneak
Oreos away from the pantry, stealing bites of childhood innocence;
for turtlenecks; being tormented by other children
the ragged appearance of her skin.
Watched my father drive three
hours to the only Costco that stocked unscented Keri Soothing Dry Skin Formula
and return home with thirty cases of three bottles each
by the way, also didn’t work).
And I’ve watched her grow up and out of her skin,
which still bears the scars and rough patches of struggles and treatments,
up and out of reticence, sensitivity, resentment, confusion, worthlessness.
Rising above the motley patchwork of voices to wholeness.
Author Note: Clara Luu was born and raised in San Jose, CA. She is currently a
sophomore at Stanford University, studying Human Biology and living an
exciting pre-med life. "Quilted" is drawn from a composite of
household dermatological experiences from her childhood. This piece written
for the "Becoming a Doctor" medical humanities seminar taught by
Professor Larry Zaroff. It exemplifies the key motifs motivating
Clara to pursue a career in medicine: the mutifaceted aspects of
wellness, the importance of culturally sensitive medicine, the strong
role of family in the healing process, and the mysteries of some medical
conditions that are the catalyst for exploration, discovery, and
Throughout his medical training, while immersed in the seemingly overwhelming tedious task of rote memorization, Collins lapses into philosophical thought. “What, then, makes us human? A beating heart? A cogitating brain? Or is there something more, something, for want of a better word, we call a soul?” more»
Brian T. Maurer has practiced pediatrics as a Physician Assistant for thirty years. His "Marginal Notes" column appears periodically in the Cell2Soul Blog. The title "Marginal Notes" is taken from a quote by Henry David Thoreau: "I love a broad margin to my life."
When Williams freshman, Seth Tobolsky, told his friends about being assigned to shadow two dermatologists during his January term this past winter they replied with cautions like: "Dude, you are going to be wicked bored." Seth was pleasantly surprised by his elective class and has written an enlightening and entertaining essay about it. Please read his narrative and send him your thoughts. Easy to read PDF: Download Seth- Close Encounters
Author Bio: Seth Tobolsky is a current sophomore at Williams College, and planning to be a Spanish major and Neuroscience concentrator. His post-graduation goal is to attend medical school, and he is excited to publish his first essay in Cell 2 Soul. You may reach him at mailto:sat2ATwilliams.edu.