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 to be dying, and (b) not have died." (Chapter 1, 56%). 

Friends and parents

Hazel has few friends since she has been unable to go to school for three years. She has earned a high school diploma and attends lectures, such as American Literature and 20th Century American Poetry, three mornings a week at the local college. 

Hazel’s best friends are her parents. Her mother works for an insurance company and spends most of her time together with Hazel. She always motivates Hazel to go out and meet friends again. She also insists that Hazel attend the support group once a week: "I liked my mom, but her perpetual nearness sometimes made me feel weirdly nervous" (Chapter 3, 30%). 

At her mother's request, Hazel tries to maintain a friendship with her former classmate Kaitlyn, occasionally meeting her for shopping trips or calling her to ask her about relationships. But it becomes clear that these friendships with healthy teenagers can be difficult to work out, as they always treat Hazel with bias and caution: "The other thing about Kaitlyn, I guess, was that it could never again feel natural to talk to her. Any attempts to feign normal social interactions were just depressing [...]" (p. 56). 

Hazel likes her old classmates, but senses an unbridgeable distance between herself and them: "I think my school friends wanted to help me through my cancer, but they eventually found out that they couldn’t. For one thing, there was no through" (Chapter 3, 100%). 

Hazel's concern and guilt

Hazel often feels guilty and like she is a burden to others, because she thinks she is causing her parents pain. For example, when her father cries at a cancer meeting with the doctors, she says: "I hated hurting him. Most of the time, I could forget about it, but the inexorable truth is this: They might be glad to have me around, but I was the alpha and the omega of my parents’ suffering" (Chapter 8, 14%).

The loving and thoughtful Hazel also feels like a financial burden because her treatment is expensive and thus her parents cannot afford anything else.

The caring and selfless Hazel is further burdened by the worry that she could destroy her parents' lives. She fears that the lives of her parents,  especially her mother’s revolve around her, and that her mother will no longer have a life of her own after Hazel’s death: "'I am going to die and leave you here alone and you won’t have a me to hover around and you won’t be a mother anymore, and I’m sorry, but I can’t do anything about it, okay?!'" (Chapter 24, 50%). 

The sensitive Hazel remembers that her mother once said to Hazel's father that she would no longer be a mother after Hazel's death. However, her mother contradicts Hazel on this and assures her that she will always love Hazel and will always be her mother (Chapter 24, 50%). Then, when Hazel learns that her mother is enrolled in a course to become a social worker, she becomes ove...

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