Saturday, March 13, 2021

Ann Patchett met Tom Hanks, but ended up writing an incredibly moving tribute to his absurdly accomplished assistant

Trigger warning: F cancer. At the risk of a "spoiler," the assistant seems to still be alive and painting. A small excerpt from a very long essay:

I was impressed that first day when the therapists swarmed the table forming the mold around me and explaining about tattoos. I was told that although not everyone wanted to commit to having the tattoos, it was the most accurate way to align the radiation field that had been so meticulously laid out by a team of physicists working alongside my radiation oncologist. The only other option was to go with “stickers” which could shift or come off in the shower. Of course I opted for tattoos. Precision seemed like a good decision here. Three blue tattoos on the same plane as my prominent abdominal scar, it would hardly matter. So, I was surprised on my first scheduled day of radiation to have another technician pop in with a red sharpie to make three large x’s near the tattoos as additional points of reference and stick clear round stickers over them.

Now I look like an improvised elementary school art project, and in addition to owning my permanent tattoos, I have to nurture my three little stickers and hand-drawn sharpie marks so they last six weeks. I feel like I could pop into Trader Joe’s and have them replaced with those happy little stickers they hand out to well-behaved children—it undermines my confidence in the sophisticated nature of the whole process just a bit.