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Meredith Rizzo

Within weeks of being diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 years old, Nicole O'Hara of Phoenix, Md., underwent a double mastectomy. She had breast reconstruction during the same operation; then it was on to chemotherapy.

The ordeal left O'Hara with "big, ugly, red inflamed scars and stitches and drains," she says.

"It [was] a battlefield."

When Mexican-American artist Nora Litz first talked with her students about immigration — she was shocked to hear how scared they were.

Sometimes, even professionally compassionate people get tired.

Kristin Laurel, a flight nurse from Waconia, Minn., has worked in trauma units for over two decades. The daily exposure to distressing situations can sometimes result in compassion fatigue.

"Some calls get to you, no matter who you are," she says.

After years working as a nurse in critical care units, Anne Webster found herself lying in the hospital struggling to get well. She had been given the wrong dose of a chemotherapy medication to treat Crohn's disease. The mistake had caused her bone marrow to shut down, and she'd developed pneumonia.

As she lay in the hospital, she thought, "If I live, I'm gonna write about this."

After three weeks, she recovered. And the experience led Webster to write Chemo Brain, a poem about how the drug scrambled her thinking.

According to Audrey Shafer, there is something profound in the moment a patient wakes up from surgery.

She would know — she's an anesthesiologist. She's responsible for people when they are at their most vulnerable: unconscious, unable to breathe on their own or even blink their eyes.

As a result, Shafer says, a kind of intimate trust forms between her and her patients. It's this closeness that moves her to write poetry about medicine.

Inside the walls of a geriatric hospital in France, time stands still. Light falls across two stockinged feet on a bed. The fading floral pattern on a swath of wallpaper is interrupted by an unused corkboard. And between these scenes of stillness, residents approach a pair of locked doors with modest curiosity, expectation and even anger.

Swedish photographer Maja Daniels says those doors, which were locked to prevent the residents from wandering, were crucial early in the project.

In 2008, Dana Walrath asked her mother Alice to move in with her. Alice's Alzheimer's disease had gotten worse, and even though she still had all her humor and graces, she could no longer take care of herself.

During the next two and-a-half years, Walrath and her mother connected through stories and memories, even though Alice didn't always recognize her daughter. Walrath, a medical anthropologist at the Vermont College of Medicine, in Burlington, Vt., looks back fondly on that time.

"My name is Becki," says a young woman standing in a convention center turned comic book bazaar. Then she flips a mane of orange hair and launches into Scottish accent. "And today, I am Merida from Brave."

When Architect Matthias Hollwich was approaching 40, he wondered what the next 40 years of his life might look like. He looked into the architecture that serves older adults, places like retirement communities and assisted living facilities, and didn't like what he saw. But what if we changed our habits earlier in life so we could stay in the communities we already live in?

When Ryan Green's son Joel was 1 year old he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. Over the next few years, he underwent rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, only to have the cancer return.

Do you remember cutting paper snowflakes in school? Artist Rogan Brown has elevated that simple seasonal art form and taken it to science class.

These large-scale paper sculptures may evoke snow, but actually trade on the forms of bacteria and other organisms. The patterns may feel familiar, but also a bit alien. You're not looking at a replica of a microbe, but an interpretation of one. And that distinction, Brown says, is important.

Hispanic people much are less likely to get cancer than non-Hispanic whites, but it's also their leading cause of death.

Beneath that puzzling fact lie the complexities and contradictions of the Hispanic health experience in the United States. Since we're talking about 17 percent of the U.S. population, it has ramifications for health care and the economy.

Here's what caught our eye in Wednesday's report on cancer and Hispanics from the American Cancer Society:

When it comes to sports, there seems to be something for everyone.

There are team sports and activities you can do alone. There's exercise that requires equipment, or none at all.

But how much benefit you get from each one depends on a lot of factors, including how much you weigh, how long you play and the intensity of the activity.

It wasn't until Deborah Svoboda dated someone who is trans that she understood how little she understood about being transgender. "I realized how very misunderstood they were, including by me," she says. And that comes from someone who identifies as queer and has lived and worked in diverse communities.

When Erik Christiansen started smoking pot, he became fascinated by the look of different marijuana strains. But the photographs of marijuana he saw didn't capture the variety.

So he went to the hardware store and picked up two lights and a cardboard box. "I didn't even have a macro lens — I was shooting through a magnifying glass," he says.

The California-based photographer tinkered with his macro technique until he had created a consistent way to capture highly detailed images of marijuana.

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