Jenny Diski – A Diagnosis (extract)

Thanks to PB for this link –

Two short extracts below –

“I had been formally inducted into Cancer World. (Mixing my metaphors, I’m afraid. Which should it be, the theme park or the lack of variety show?) I was handed my script, though all the lines were known already and the moves were paced out. There are no novel responses possible. Absolutely none that I could think of. Responses to the diagnosis; the treatment and its side effects; the development of cancer symptoms; the pain and discomfort; the dying; the death. Do I have to start a campaign? Wear a badge, run, climb walls, swim inordinate lengths, dance the tango for a very long time, in return for money for cancer research? Whatever that is. Does the money go to the drug companies? To university labs? To Jeremy Hunt? What is this crowd-funded research, where is it happening? Am I going to appear calm in the face of destiny? Actually cheerful, with people saying I was wonderful? Should I affirm my atheism or collapse into religious comfort? Or should I turn my face to the wall? And when the symptoms kick in, will I suffer in silence, quote Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, or will I refuse to go gentle and make an almighty fuss (‘Excuse me, I’m the cancer patient here!’). Dear God, not a bucket list? Really, there is nothing that I want to do before I die, except perhaps just lie back and enjoy the morphine, daydreaming my way to oblivion.”


“Another f*****g cancer diary. I think back to cancer diaries I have read, just because they’re there. You don’t seek cancer diaries out, they come at you as you turn the pages of magazines and newspapers or thumb through Twitter and blogs. How many have I read? I can’t remember, but they’ve spanned decades. I recall Ruth Picardie, a young woman in her thirties, with small children. John Diamond, married to Nigella Lawson and dying stylishly. Ivan Noble, a BBC science and technology writer; Tom Lubbock, art critic; Susan Sontag, although not exactly a diary, mined her cancer for a famous essay about the cultural nature of illness. Those stood out, they were all professional writers and most wrote their diaries as occasional or regular series for newspapers or online blogs. Can there possibly be anything new to add? Isn’t the cliché of writing a cancer diary going to be compounded by the impossibility of writing in it anything other than what has already been written, over and over? Same story, same ending. Weariness.”

Jenny Diski – A Diagnosis (extract) – [my fruity language mod to avoid being trashed by e-mail moral guardian systems.]

Diski and I share pretty much an identical attitudes to the drama’s we find ourselves cast in. I particularly enjoyed her account of her inability to say the right thing to a relative sitting shiva.

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