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Cancer Chronicle

July-August 2014


Journal page by Matt Freedman


Journal page by Matt Freedman

“This book,” writes Matt Freedman ’78, “reproduces a journal I kept in the fall of 2012 while I was undergoing care at Massachusetts General Hospital.” Friends gave Freedman, an artist and writer who lives in New York, a sketch book before he went to Boston, and “I decided I would gradually fill the thing up with whatever came into my head during the course of my treatment.” The result, hand-lettered and illustrated, is Relatively Indolent but Relentless (Seven Stories Press, $23.95), an unfiltered record as matter-of-fact as its subtitle, A Cancer Treatment Journal. The following is the first day’s entry, with some of the subsequent drawings.

Yesterday my colleagues and students gave me this sketch book to fill up over the next two months while I undergo radiation and chemotherapy. I’m going to get proton radiation to fight the tumor in my tongue. I will also get protons to fight the tumors in my lymph nodes in my neck. There will also be chemotherapy to sensitize the cancer cells. They hope they will get a “two-fer” out of the chemo and it will also attack the tumors in my lungs.

It’s October 3 and I’ve known for about two months that I have adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare cancer that is “slow and indolent.” It moves slowly but is hard to stop.

No one knows how long the cancer has been in me. It could have been years. I’ve had a bad earache for years. For most of that time I thought it was caused by nighttime tooth grinding. I had mouth guards made that sort of worked, but not really, and not for long. And besides, the dog ate them every time it could.

I’m very sloppy and I let things go when I shouldn’t. Maybe that was the root of all the trouble.

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Click on arrow at right to see uncropped image
Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907
©2019 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image from the Bridgeman Art Library

Excerpt from Suzanne Preston Blier, “Picasso’s ‘Demoiselles’”

The master architects: Hall for Worship of the Ancestors, Beijing, early fifteenth century with many later repairs

Photograph by Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt

Recent books with Harvard connections

Chinese refugees stream through the wrecked streets of Chongqing, heavily bombed by the Japanese from 1938 to 1943 during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Photograph from Central Press/Getty Images

Edward S. Steinfeld reviews Ezra Vogel’s “China and Japan: Facing History”