It is 1973, and Willie Mays (Bernie) Bernstein is a disillusioned doctor. As the Vietnam War rages thousands of miles away, he fights a battle inside his own mind. Despite Nixon’s announcement that there will be a cure for cancer in the next decade, he feels powerless against the horrific disease and its effects. Worse yet, he lost his ability to be compassionate toward his patients. Following a desperate call from a respected nurse—essentially his guardian angel—requesting him to care for her eleven-year-old granddaughter as his next cancer patient, Bernie reluctantly agrees to break his no children policy and see her. Little does he know that Anna Bing is about to take hold of his heart and not let go.
After Bernie diagnoses Anna with Hodgkin’s disease and lines up a course of treatments at a major medical center, he soon realizes that he feels an unexplainable bond with the girl. Despite her initially good prognosis, Anna’s treatments fail; she is eventually sent back to his hospital for terminal care. Along with her mother and grandmother, Bernie continues a valiant fight for Anna's life that tests him not only as a doctor, but also as a man.
Anna is the poignant tale of a doctor and his struggle to regain his humanity as he attempts to save a girl from the ravages of cancer.
In this novel set in 1973, a cancer doctor, who’s struggling with feelings of futility, reluctantly agrees to treat an 11-year-old girl.
Oncologist Willie Mays “Bernie” Bernstein doesn’t take children as patients. He treats adult cancers with the tools and knowledge that’s available, and it tests the limits of his hope and resilience. His temper flares, stress tightens his chest, and he drinks too much. “Most patients die. When they live, who knows why?” he muses. “Shit. It’s all a waste of time.” Still, when head nurse Jessica Coles—who took Bernie under her wing when he was just starting out—asks him to see her young granddaughter Anna Bing, who’s suffering from Hodgkin’s disease, he can’t say no. Sorting out the girl’s treatment will require him to think differently about cancer, and break some rules. In this, he’s supported by his open, loving family. As he waits to see the effects of his risky, experimental regimen, he comes to see the importance of maintaining a realistic yet positive outlook. In his debut novel, Derechin—a retired physician whose specialties were oncology and hematology—nicely captures the frustrations of a doctor who’s keenly aware of his limitations. Bernie is a well-balanced character, neither Dr. Schweitzer nor Dr. House. His warm, chaotic little household zoo of family, pets, and friends mirrors his own nature; he’s a man who’s willing to ski through a snowstorm to get to his patients. Some of the book’s insights about cancer treatment, which were new in the 1970s, are well-accepted today, such as prioritizing pain relief over the risk of addiction. Others are still controversial, for example, the idea that patients’ attitudes make all the difference—a view reflected today in many positive-thinking approaches for cancer sufferers: “He’s just not a quitter,” says the wife of a prostate-cancer patient; “I feel people pick the time to die,” agrees Bernie. Readers who’ve seen determined people die of cancer, though, may strongly disagree.
A compassionate portrait of a doctor’s quest to make a difference.
Anna: A Doctor's Quest into the Unknown earns the Editor's Choice Award from iUniverse Publishing.
Anna is a wonderful mixture of emotions. It tells the true story of a doctor's struggle to save a cancer patient who would have died without his unorthodox determination. It is also a story of interrelationships. A beautiful story told beautifully with a mix of humor and irony.
A wonderful story! It gives terrific insight into the dilemmas faced by Oncologists every day. I have 30 years of working in the Oncology field and the main character, Dr Bernie, has a relationship with his patients rarely seen these days. A very touching story. I will watch for other works by this author.
A colourful, funny but very moving and sensitive description of a child's illness and a doctor's dilemma and commitment to a patient.
Every character was well rounded and one had the feeling that one possibly might know or might have met all of them. I raced through the book , not really wanting it to end, but needing to know the outcome! Hopefully there will be more from this author.
Michael Derechin will present his book, Anna: A Doctor's Quest into the Unknown, at the Jewish Ladies Fellowship at Bat Yam Temple of the Islands from 10:30am - 11:15am on February 14, 2015. He will lead a discussion focused on medical and emotional well-being.
Michael Derechin will read extracts from his novel, Anna: A Doctor's Quest into the Unknown and sign copies of his book from 11am to 1pm on February 26. Sanibel Island Bookshop, 1571 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957.
Michael Derechin presents his novel, Anna: A Doctor's Quest into the Unknown. He will lead a discussion on his book and address questions from the audience. The presentation begins at 2:00pm at the Sanibel Public Library on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Sanibel Public Library, 770 Dunlop Road, Sanibel, Florida 33957.