Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

In the NICU – The Tumor

Lydia Kang
Omaha, Nebraska, USA


Poet’s statement: “In the NICU” is a piece that reflects upon a mother’s feelings of guilt and imperfection as she holds, for the first time, her own sick infant in the NICU. “The Tumor” involves a patient’s experience of being diagnosed with a brain tumor.

In the NICU

A pear tree in the yard grew crooked
The leaves always chartreuse but lined
With brown, folded or eaten, blemished.
It was not lovely, not round or oval,
Jagged and tilted towards the neighbor’s yard
With the fat-bellied cat and overgrown herb garden.
After so many years sifting wind,
It made one pear—
A little hard, a little sweet.
I held it in my hands
As I held you, imperfect,
And loved you, still.

Photography by Reinko Hallenga
Photography by Peter E. Lee


The tumor

It started with a headache.
He was the worrying type—
You know how they are.
In less than a week
Too long, perhaps,
He got his mind magnetically viewed
And they found it,
A rubber marble in the silken folds.

Today, he’ll have it removed.
A glob of cells
With a God-complex.
That immortal ball cares not
For his sake, or his body
Or the family that waits outside




LYDIA KANG, MD, FACP, is a practicing primary care internist with a background in palliative care medicine. She has been writing poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction for over five years, and her work has been published in JAMA, Journal of General Internal Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine, and the Canadian Medical Association Journal. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and three children, and enjoys blogging as a medical consultant for fiction writer’s imaginary health-related conundrums. Her first novel, CONTROL, will be published by Dial Books (Penguin) in 2013.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Fall 2012 – Volume 4, Issue 4
Fall 2012  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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