Dr Ranjana Srivastava was educated in India, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. She graduated from Monash University with a first-class honours degree and several awards in medicine. Ranjana undertook her internship, residency and specialist training at various Melbourne hospitals.
In 2004 she won the prestigious Fulbright Award, which she completed at the University of Chicago. She was admitted as a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 2005 and started practicing oncology in the public hospital system.
Ranjana’s writing has been published worldwide, including in Time magazine and The Week, and in medical journals The New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association and Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care Management. In 2008 her story ‘Ode to a Patient’ won the Cancer Council Victoria Arts Award for outstanding writing.
Ranjana’s inaugural Melbourne Magazine column was featured in the Best Australian Science Writing of 2012.
Ranjana lives in Melbourne with her husband and three young children.
Tell Me the Truth: Conversations with my Patients about Life and Death
Cancer patients put up with the most and complain the least, endowed with an uncommon wisdom that is a privilege to observe. It is not simply that they see the big picture; if you spend long enough with them, they help you see it too.’
What really happens when someone hears the words, ‘You have cancer?’ What has preceded it and what comes after? Written with great compassion and honesty, this is a rare view from the other side of the desk. Oncologist Ranjana Srivastava reflects on the very human side of the medical profession – the moral dilemmas, the anxieties, the empathy – and shows us that the best doctors are the ones who keep learning by listening to their patients.
This book is much more than an oncologist’s diary; it is an acknowledgement of the incredible courage of ordinary people as they confront the big issues of life and death.
NSW Premier’s Literary Award 2011, Non-Fiction Shortlist Commendation
Fatal cancer is a dangerous subject, and authors who tackle this issue run a very high risk of sliding into the glibness of avoidance or the insult of self-help. Srivastava’s great achievement is that her tone is exemplary, distinguished by lack of sentimentality and elegant, almost translucent prose. In her work as an oncologist, Srivastava describes her dealings with terminally ill cancer patients in a series of stories that never slip into clinical case studies. Not all the patients and their relatives are heroic: quietly and compassionately Srivastava describes real people faced with terrifying situations and impossible choices. Nor does she overemphasise her own role or expertise. The placement of the stories is particularly impressive, and the work has a satisfying rhythm and flow.
This book deals with much more than illness. It speaks about the meaning of a good life and a good death, the ethics of assisted suicide, the doctor’s role as counsellor versus technician and, in one chilling chapter, the treatment of desperately ill refugees. Occasionally the author pauses to ask ‘what can we learn from this’ and given the subject such a question is appropriate.