Tag Archives: illness

An avalanche of white tissues

Gail Ghai Sarasota, Florida, United States   Avalanche by Robert Qualters. Mixed media painting and drawing, 2022. Courtesy of artist. He gives me a golden pearl to vanquish the sputtering sputum cough. A red tablet to quell the scarlet flushing, and an ivory capsule to squash the bronchial terrorists that have invaded the walls of […]

De Profundis: Oscar Wilde’s narrative of mental anguish

Anthony G. Chesebro Stony Brook, New York, United States Oscar Wilde. Photo by Napoleon Sarony, 1882. Via Wikimedia. Public domain.   “There is only one season, the season of sorrow.”1  Imprisoned for a relationship that was criminalized by the government of his time, in 1897 Oscar Wilde had spent two years in jail. Finally granted […]

The use of language in health and illness narratives

Mariella Scerri Victor Grech  Malta   Portrait of Virginia Woolf in 1902. By George Charles Beresford. Public Domain. Via Wikimedia. “While I was as busy as anyone on the sunny plain of life, I heard of you laid aside in the shadowy recess where our sunshine of hope and joy could never penetrate to you.” […]

Wet nursing: a historical perspective

Mariella Scerri Mellieha, Malta   A Russian wet nurse, c. 1913. Painted by Frederic de Haenen public domain via Wikimedia. Wet nursing, a form of breastfeeding provided by someone other than an infant’s biological mother,1 has a long and sometimes controversial history. Death in childbirth, a mother’s illness, as well as cultural habits and circumstance […]

Children treating children: Anne Shirley as clinician

Kathryne Dycus Madrid, Spain   First edition cover of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, published 1908. Cover art by George Fort Gibbs (1870—1942). Public Domain. Childhood classics provide a range of illness narratives, reminding readers of dangers now preventable and even treatable, but also of the universal imperatives of understanding and accommodating […]

Learning to heal

Jeanne Bryner Nora Mazur Newton Falls, Ohio, United States   Top pieced by Jeanne Bryner Quilting done by Nora Mazur Jeanne Bryner: Quilts are important in my Appalachian culture. Narratives of beauty and truth are pieced together, preserving family history. This quilt contains photos of a special family of international sisters and brothers in the […]

Ladies in red: medical and metaphorical reflections on La Traviata

Milad Matta Gregory Rutecki Lyndhurst, Ohio, United States   Illustration by Jason Malmberg. “. . . phthisic beauty[’s] . . . most famous operatic embodiment was Violetta Valery . . .This physical type became not only fashionable but sexy . . . When a society does not understand—and cannot control—a disease, ground seems to open […]

The other kingdom

Jamie Samson Dublin, Ireland   Death and life by Gustav Klimt. The radical “otherness” of death is a fixture of art history, as illustrated here in Klimt’s ‘Death and Life’. 1915. Leopold Museum, Vienna “Everyone who is born,” Susan Sontag wrote in Illness as Metaphor, “holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and […]

Lessons from the black hole

Columba Quigley London, United Kingdom    Frida Kahlo, Wounded Stag The episode occurred some few years ago, when I was working in palliative medicine, caring for those with advanced and often incurable disease. As I walked onto the ward early one morning, a woman whom I had been seeing on a daily basis for symptom […]

Breathless: philosophical lessons from respiratory illness

Havi Carel United Kingdom   It is 12:28. I have just parked my car in a lucky empty space just outside my office. I have a meeting at 12:30. I am texting with one hand and feeling for my inhaler in my coat pocket with the other. I pull the inhaler out, place it in […]