By Kathlyn Conway
Released bills of ailment and incapacity usually emphasize wish and optimistic pondering: the girl who nonetheless appeared appealing after wasting her hair, the guy who ran 5 miles an afternoon in the course of chemotherapy. This acclaimed exam of the style of the disease narrative questions that upbeat strategy. writer Kathlyn Conway, a three-time melanoma survivor and herself the writer of an sickness memoir, believes that the triumphalist method of writing approximately disorder fails to do justice to the shattering adventure of affliction. through wrestling with the problem of writing concerning the truth of great sickness and harm, she argues, writers can provide a more true photo of the advanced dating among physique and brain.
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Extra resources for Beyond Words: Illness and the Limits of Expression
When we cannot ‹nd it in ourselves to battle, to look healthy, to remain optimistic, we feel we are failing. It is also a narrative whose denial of limitation and death has a destructive impact on large groups of people. Those who cannot triumph are looked down upon; the needs of the disabled are not adequately addressed; and the dying are often not allowed to die before being subjected to high-tech interventions. Although the writers I have cited argue for an alternative to the triumph narrative that acknowledges the reality of both physical and emotional suffering, the fact is that most of us do not have an alternative way of conceptualizing our experience.
The media bombard us with different variations on the triumph narrative. Advertisements pound home the notion that any bodily imperfection, or more accurately, any deviation from what is deemed the norm, can be overcome with procedures and products—plastic surgery, Botox, creams, lotions, and potions. When illness is depicted in TV ads for pharmaceuticals, people suffering the ailment not only appear more beautiful than the general population but also more vigorous. Television movies bathe the sufferer in soft light that hides the reality of the injured or suffering body.
Reeve did reclaim some movement, but it was minimal and the result of endless hours of physical therapy requiring the services of many professionals. While admired by many, Reeve still drew the ire of some disability activists who felt that by taking such a triumphalist position he glossed over the reality of paralysis. Another aspect of Reeve’s story that generally goes unnoticed is that, at least early on in dealing with his paralysis and his future as a quadriplegic, he contemplated suicide.