David Bruce: Illness and Injury Anecdotes

© 2015, David Bruce, All Rights Reserved

When Harvey Pekar of American Splendor fame got cancer, he was fortunate in having a caring oncologist. He wanted to get the chemotherapy over quickly and so he took what the doctor called a 12-week treatment plan consisting of weekly injections of drugs into his body although he knew that this treatment plan would be a lot harsher and punishing than if he were to spread the treatments over a longer time and take lower doses of the drug. Unfortunately, the doctor made a mistake. Although she called it a 12-week treatment plan, actually it was so harsh that patients always had to take longer than 12 weeks to finish it. This happened to Harvey. He would go in for a treatment, and medical personnel would draw his blood for a white-cell count. If his white blood cell count was too low, he was unable to get chemotherapy that week because taking the drugs would be dangerous. That made him feel really bad. Therefore, his wife, Joyce Brabner, talked to the doctor, and the doctor gave him an infusion anyway, but an infusion that did not have the drugs. Joyce simply told him, “We’re going to give you some of what’s normally in the bag.” This was the truth because the weekly chemotherapy bag contained more than the drugs that it would be dangerous for Harvey to take with a low white blood cell count. Having something injected into his body made Harvey feel that he was making progress. Harvey’s doctor was a good doctor because she listened to her patients (and patients’ spouses), she bent the rules a little (as when she allowed something to be injected into Harvey’s body), and she learned from her mistake and started telling patients that it was a 12-treatment plan instead of telling them that it was a 12-week treatment plan. She also read a few issues of American Splendor in order to understand Harvey better, and after Harvey was cured of the cancer, she let him, his wife, and an artist named Frank Stack take photos of the chemotherapy lab where Harvey was treated so they could use the photographs in the creation of Our Cancer Year, Harvey and Joyce’s comic book (with art by Frank) about Harvey’s fight against cancer. In the comic book, Harvey’s oncologist is called Dr. Rhodes, but her real name appeared in an interview with her that was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute about Our Cancer Year: Dr. Ruth Streeter. Harvey worked as a low-level file clerk in a veterans hospital in Cleveland, and his medical insurance paid for the cancer cure, except for a couple of hundred dollars of out-of-pocket expenses per year. Harvey’s brother also did the very good deed of paying for the visiting nurse. Another person who did a very good deed was neighbor Marge Petrone, who drove them to the hospital after their car battery died. Joyce calls this an example of the “seemingly simple things that really count.” By the way, when Harvey and Joyce went on their first date, they decided to get married. On their second date, they bought the rings. On their third date, they got married. (They had talked on the telephone for a few months before they met and went on their first date.) Joyce is an interesting person. When she was little, she knew that for 20 cents she could either buy two comic books or take the bus to the library. For her, the decision was easy: the library had the Oz books.

Australian James Harrison is the man with the golden blood. Now over 70, he started donating blood at age 18 and has made over 1,000 blood donations. At age 14, he had fallen ill and needed 13 liters of blood to survive chest surgery. Mr. Harrison’s blood is special: It has a rare antibody that can cure rhesus disease, which Solana Islam, a writer for InspireMore, defined as “a severe form of anaemia that causes either death or brain damage for newborns.” His blood has been used to help more than an estimated 2.4 MILLION babies — including one of his own grandchildren — survive the condition. Mr. Harrison denies that he is a hero: “The people on the front line, the police, the emergency services, they’re the heroes because they’re out there doing it. I just catch the train down to Sydney from the Central Coast as often as I can, read a good book, donate, and come back.” Mr. Harrison says that donating blood is quite simple: “An hour of your time is a lifetime for someone else.”

After political cartoonist Herblock received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Lake Forest, he remarked that since he now had all the “rights and privileges appertaining thereto” the degree, he might start filing lawsuits. The president of Lake Forest then told him a story about humorist Stephen Leacock, who had also received an honorary doctorate. He signed his name as Dr. Stephen Leacock when he boarded a ship for Europe. During the voyage, a ship officer came to his cabin and told him that a beautiful Ziegfeld Follies showgirl had sprained her hip and could he please examine her. Mr. Leacock said, “I was down there like a shot, but not soon enough — two doctors of divinity had got there before me.”

Max Geldray played jazz saxophone on Great Britain’s The Goon Show, two of whose stars were Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers. When Mr. Geldray needed a vein removed, he did not tell anyone because it was a minor operation. However, because he is a celebrity, news of the operation got into the newspapers. When Mr. Geldray returned home after the operation, he found his home filled with flowers and fruit — gifts from Mr. Secombe. And Mr. Sellers arrived, carried Mr. Geldray, who couldn’t walk, to his car, and drove him to a shopping center. There, Mr. Sellers filled the car with a complete new sound system that was better than the one Mr. Geldray already had.

“Illness of any kind is hardly a thing to be encouraged in others. Health is the primary duty of life.” — Oscar Wilde

“I’ve got Parkinson’s disease — and he’s got mine.” — Anonymous

Download free eBooks, including books for teachers, by David Bruce here:


Romance Books by Brenda Kennedy (Some Free)


Free PDF book: William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure: A Retelling in Prose by David Bruce


Free PDF book: Honey Badger Goes to Hell — and Heaven by David Bruce


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