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November 18, 1992


Author Affiliations

Yale University School of Medicine New Haven, Conn

JAMA. 1992;268(19):2711-2712. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490190115042

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Arthur Frank, a sociologist, within two years suffered from both a "heart attack" (ventricular tachycardia from myocarditis) and a seminoma. In the currently popular genre of pathography, which has been likened to 17th-century accounts of religious conversion (I was a sinner but now I am saved; I was sick but this is what I have learned), he has written an account that should be widely read, at the very least by all oncologists.

He reminds us doctors of much that custom has blinded us to: You don't fight a heart attack; you have a heart attack, but you fight cancer. You don't talk about a heart attack as "ha," but you do disguise cancer as "ca." That may be in part because cancer transfigures you in a way that a heart attack does not. You are forever a cancer patient, even if you have recovered.

Like the sociologist Robert Murphy