COMM 321 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Barbara Barrie, Colorectal Cancer, Reynolds Price

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8 Feb 2017

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Pathography: Patient Narratives of Illness
People are writing more autobiographies and narratives about their experience of illness
Pathographies articulate the hopes, fears, and anxieties that are common to sickness
Also guidebooks to the illness itself and the medical experience
They are also helpful to the physician to understand the patients more
There are around 60 pathographies on breast cancer alone that speak about common
procedures, to alternative treatments such as psychic healing
Prostate cancer and psychiatric disorder pathographies are on the increase
Reynolds Price focuses more on paralysis rather than the tumor
Barbara Barrie focuses on how she leads a productive life despite having colorectal
Neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and epilepsy are common topics as well
Autobiographies and biographies about death are becoming more popular
For the most part, authors of these are a heterogeneous group: movie star, hairdressers,
housewives, ministers, journalists, athletes, truck drivers and college teachers; most are
middle class
Religion is involved in many of these pathographies
Pathology is a recent phenomenon
In earlier times, sickness was an integral and inseparable part of living
These stories are also important because there is a sense of depersonalization in
medical treatment today
They complement the person’s medical record
These concern illness and treatment as it is understood by the patient
Four types of pathographies
Motivated by the explicit wish to help others
Blend practical info with personal account
To point out deficiencies in various aspect in patient care
Very important to point out negatives in healthcare!
Also dissatisfaction with medical system without doctor-bashing
Tries to find alternative cures
Links personal experience of illness with larger environmental, political, or
cultural issues
Uses of pathographies
Seems to facilitate recovery
Writing helps with psychic rebuilding
Finds patterns, imposing order, and discovering meaning
For physicians, can provide a neat “window” into what their patients lives and
their viewpoints
They describe common issues in the medical field
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