Fondazione Zoé

The words construct the culture of hope in face of illness. And hope is itself a drug.

A good book has finally been translated into Italian, which means there are two editions, the original American edition and the Italian one. The author is an oncologist that describes cancer through uniting the characteristics of a great novel and the true stories of patients. The book tells us the story of this illness from antiquity to the most recent discvories, it gives voice to the latest scientific research and hopes. Above all it gives a voice to the patients and their lives. But, beyond the text, that which struck me most is the theme of the book, its cultural message – I have noticed it in some books and have read those simply in English because the title has nothing to do with the original. In this case, however it seems more serious.

‘The Emperor of the Maladies’ became ‘The Emperor of the Ill’ therefore amplifying the terrible people’s perception of tumours. It is not a disease, more or less serious according to cases, but it is an absolute disease. That which is never cited in articles that appear in our newspapers – a fatal disease, a terminal disease, an ill that does not pardon- as if calling things with their own name would increase the risk of suffering from it.

For this change in title is a gross error that is unnatural and changes the meaning of the book itself. That it tentatively manages to explain that cancer has a history, that the terrible therapies set in being in the past. But also that today we are faced with another story. How can we communicate correctly with patients if we exorcise the words maintaining all around to this the aura of inviolability that they have?

One dies from cancer, certainly, much more than from those who suffer from cardiovascular diseases – but no-one defines a heart attack a dark evil that attacks the heart. What can you do? Reappropriating the meanings of words, understanding what they contain and above all not being scared to say them. For us ourselves that although being doctors

or maybe because we are, we must learn to tell the truth and not use an unuseful turn of words. And for those who are ill, that have the right to think that it has been struck by an illness, more complex to cure, sure but a disease that today can be cured, slowed, become chronic. Overall also the words construct the culture of hope in face of illness. And hope is itself a drug.

For this whoever has assumed responsibility of modifying the title, I hope unknowingly, has done the worst thing to all of us. But the book is very good and therefore I hope that it has the same success here in Italy as it has in the United States.

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