Hazel Grace Lancaster

Diagnosis and surgery

Hazel is the main character in John Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars. She is 16 years old. She has dark hair and green eyes. She lives is an only child and lives with her parents in Indianapolis/ Indiana USA. She has been suffering from stage IV thyroid cancer with metastases in the lungs for three years (Chapter 1, 44%). With this form of cancer, there is little hope for a cure. She is diagnosed at the age of 13, three months after her first period (Chapter 2, 13%): "Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die. It was, we were told, incurable." (Chapter 2, 13%). She has not gone to school for three years (Chapter 1, 44%).

Hazel undergoes a "radical neck dissection" a short time later. This involves removing the tumor in the head and neck area by clearing out all the lymph nodes of the neck. In this way, the metastases, meaning the spread of the tumor, are removed to prevent the cancer from spreading further. Later, Hazel will receive radiation and chemotherapy.

Chemo and phalanxifor

After surgery, she goes through a tumor-free period until it starts to grow again. Water collects in her lungs: "I was looking pretty dead—my hands and feet ballooned; my skin cracked; my lips were perpetually blue." (Chapter 2, 13%). As her condition worsens, her oncologist Dr. Maria decides to test the drug Phalanxifor on her. It works in such a way that the metastases hardly grow over the next 18 months: "leaving me with lungs that suck at being lungs but could, conceivably, struggle along indefinitely with the assistance of drizzled oxygen and daily Phalanxifor." (Chapter 2, 13%).

Because of chemotherapy and the new drug Phalanxifor, Hazel has puffy cheeks and swollen ankles (Chapter 1, 33%). She has a bob haircut because she was previously bald due to the chemotherapy. She always has to carry an oxygen bottle with her, because otherwise she does not get enough air. At night, she gets air through a large oxygen concentrator she calls Philip. "It always hurt not to breathe like a normal person, incessantly reminding your lungs to be lungs, forcing yourself to accept as unsolvable the clawing scraping inside-out ache of underoxygenation" (Chapter 3, 80%).

Depression and reading

Hazel becomes depressed, hardly leaves the house, and rarely eats. She spends most of her time in bed. "Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying" (Chapter 1, 1%). 

Hazel's favorite activity is to read over and over again  novel about cancer An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten and to think about death (Chapter 1, 1%). His novel is like a bible for Hazel, and she also likes to quote from it : "Peter Van Houten was the only person I’d ever come across who seemed to (a) understand what it’s like ...

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