Thursday, May 05, 2005

Noonan: Never Too Much Information when it comes to Illness

Peggy Noonan's latest piece bemoans the lack of self-censoring in today's American but also congratulates those high profile people, such as Peter Jennings, Melissa Etheridge, Tony Snow and Laura Ingraham, who have an illness (cancer for all 3) for making it very public. Why?
Illness used to be considered a personal and intimate matter, and of course it is. But publicizing your struggles with it can save the lives of strangers. The other day the Associated Press reported that more than one-fourth of those who were aware of celebrity urgings to get cancer screenings had gotten such screenings.

Certain illnesses, and cancer is one, have been treated as if they were obscurely shameful. In "Illness as Metaphor," Susan Sontag said disease arouses dread. An illness "that is treated as a mystery and acutely enough feared will be felt to be morally, if not literally, contagious." She quoted Kafka writing from his sanitarium: It was hard for him to get accurate information on his tuberculosis because in discussing it "everybody drops into a shy, evasive, glassy-eyed manner of speech."
When high profile folks publicize their travails, they help countless others.

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