The Fault in Our Stars

by John Green

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What is Hazel's cancer miracle story in The Fault in Our Stars?

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When Hazel was 13, she was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer. She was very close to death but survived, and has been receiving an experimental drug for the past year and a half.

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We learn the details of Hazel's "cancer miracle story" in Chapter 2, when she relates it to Augustus, her new friend and love interest.

When she was thirteen, Hazel was diagnosed with "Stage IV thyroid cancer." ("Stage IV" means the cancer has already advanced significantly within the body, so it's...

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a very serious diagnosis.) Her doctors use surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy to try to keep her cancer in check, but Hazel comes down with a serious case of pneumonia and feels like she's drowning from the fluid in her lungs.She is very close to death, even holding her parents' hands and saying her goodbyes to them, when, incredibly, her doctor is able to remove the fluid from her lungs and she survives. At that point, she's given an experimental drug, which are notorious for not working very well, but it works for her and keeps her tumors at bay.

For the year and a half before Hazel has this conversation with Augustus, she has been taking that "miracle" drug, receiving help for her lungs from an oxygen machine, and surviving. She considers her story to be somewhat miraculous, although Hazel's sarcasm may be at play here; she may be indicating that her story is actually pretty common. And she also moderates the heartwarming aspect of the story by thinking about how her time is still limited, that the drug could stop working at any point.

Because this question asks about a main character's backstory, we know to look for the answer near the beginning of the book. But we won't always find a character's backstory in the prologue or the first chapter of a novel. Why? It's more interesting for an author to begin the story with action, with something exciting happening, rather than with all the potentially tedious details of what the character has experienced up until the real beginning of the story. So, one way that authors can include background information in an interesting way is by allowing one character to reveal that information to another character whom she's recently met. For that reason, it's a good idea to look for important conversations between characters who have just met if you need to find their backstories.

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What is Hazel's diagnosis in The Fault in Our Stars?

Hazel is the protagonist of the book The Fault in Our Stars, by John Greene. It is explained early on that she is suffering from a deadly illness, and her parents have forced her to attend a support group for ill kids, which sets her on the journey through the novel, through which she meets and falls in love with another patient named Augustus Waters.

Hazel has thyroid cancer, a deadly cancer that attacks the thyroid gland, a gland in the neck that regulates many bodily functions and that regulates metabolism. Normally, thyroid cancer is extremely treatable—one of the least harmful cancers, if there is any such thing. However, Hazel's has spread to her lungs, making it far more dangerous.

It is explained in the novel that Hazel has to carry an oxygen tank with to help her breathe properly, as the cancer has begun causing serious damage to her lungs. This speaks to the extent of her cancer and the danger she is in. Without treatment, she could die very quickly. Fortunately, throughout the novel, she is constantly being taken care of and is being checked on by medical staff.

The novel ends with uncertainty about Hazel's future. She does not overcome the cancer but gains courage and confidence in spite of it.

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