“Life gives you lemons and you make lemonade…your response to all those cancer diagnoses is so positive, such a contribution!” “Your work demonstrates that illness is a great teacher.” ”Your illness has been a blessing in disguise.”
Well-meaning, thoughtful people have said things like this to me since I started writing about the experience of being seriously ill and describing what I had to do to make my health care work for me. I generally hear in such comments polite appreciation of my efforts, which is nice because I know that people often struggle to know just what to say when confronted by others’ hardships.
But beneath that appreciation I detect a common belief about the nature of suffering from illness in particular, that in its inaccuracy can inadvertently hurt sick people and those who love them.
The belief is that sickness ennobles us; that there is good to be found in the experience of illness; while diseases are bad, they teach life lessons that are good. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at CFAH PPF Blog*
More in the evolving meme of narrative medicine: Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (my alma mater) have found that for a select population of individuals, listening to personal narratives helps control blood pressure. While the power of stories is old news, the connection to clinical outcomes is what’s newsworthy here. Read Dr. Pauline Chen’s nice piece in the New York Times. The implications for ongoing work in this area are mind boggling.
The Annals of Internal Medicine study authors sum it up nicely:
Emerging evidence suggests that storytelling, or narrative communication, may offer a unique opportunity to promote evidence-based choices in a culturally appropriate context. Stories can help listeners make meaning of their lives, and listeners may be influenced if they actively engage in a story, identify themselves with the storyteller, and picture themselves taking part in the action.
This nascent field of narrative medicine caught my eye when I stumbled onto the work of Rita Charon and the concept of the parallel chart. Extrapolation to social media may be the next iteration of this kind of work.
*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*