The Nell Dialogues: Conversation in Mortal Time

ISBN : 9780190091019

Richard P. McQuellon
248 Pages
140 x 210 mm
Pub date
Nov 2021
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Nell M. came to her therapist with an unusual problem. She was disappointed that her metastatic breast cancer was not progressing as predicted. She had hoped breast cancer would lead to death, preventing her from witnessing her spouse's mental deterioration from Alzheimer's disease. This is how Nell's story began. As Nell became increasingly aware of her death on the near horizon, the therapy sessions with the author were recorded and transcribed. The Nell Dialogues: Conversation in Mortal Time consists of twelve of Nell's illness narratives that explore the challenges of managing the physical and emotional demands of cancer, relationship issues with family and health care professionals, and disturbing, anxiety provoking thoughts as well as the mourning that accompanies the end of life. These dialogues trace Nell's acceptance of, and struggle with, the practical obstacles to achieving a good death. They also offer a window on the world of patients and their caregivers facing a life-threatening illness together. A commentary by the author accompanies each dialogue, giving the reader insights on the therapist's thinking during the counselling sessions and offering context and lessons learned from them. Nell's vibrant voice is a beacon throughout the narratives, sometimes sad, yet always hopeful for a good death. Her ability to navigate the difficult territory of mortal time and dying informs the reader about how death might be approached with grace and dignity.


Introduction: The Prospect of Mortality
Chapter 1. February 16, 2005 - Seeking Witness
Chapter 2. March 23, 2005 - Getting Finished
Chapter 3. April 5, 2005 - Living in Mortal Time
Chapter 4. April 12, 2005 - Letting Go and Mastering Fear
Chapter 5. April 19, 2005 - Leaving Gifts
Chapter 6. April 27, 2005 - Holding On
Chapter 7. May 3, 2005 - An Epiphany
Chapter 8. May 17, 2005 - Acceptance
Chapter 9. May 24, 2005 - Finding Home
Chapter 10 May 30, 2005 - Far from Home
Chapter 11. June 7, 2005 - Grief and Sadness
Chapter 12. June 14, 2005 - Facing, Accepting and Yielding
Chapter 13. June 21-22, 2005 - Departure
Chapter 14. Afterword - Therapist Reflections

About the author: 

Richard P. McQuellon, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Director, Psychosocial Oncology, Wake Forest University Baptist Health System, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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