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Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient (Twentieth Anniversary Edition) Paperback – July 17, 2005
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“Amazing and heartening.”
- Chicago Sun-Times
“An entertaining and instructive example of an inspired participation of a patient in his own treatment.”
- Washington Post
About the Author
Norman Cousins was a longtime editor of the Saturday Review and the author of eleven books on health and healing, among other works.
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In the beginning of the book, Cousins tells us about the illness from which he was told by medical specialists he wouldn't be able to recover. He briefly describes how he declined to accept this medical verdict for himself, and with the support of his personal physician, set about putting into action a plan of treatment for himself which included plying himself with high doses of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and humor (Candid Camera episodes, and Marx Brothers movies).Cousins was able to recover from his illness and later wrote a story about his treatment and recovery for the New England Journal of Medicine.
The remainder of the book shares communication from doctors and medical research that supports Cousins's belief that medical care is both a science and an art - and that positive human emotions play a big part in recovery from an illness. Cousins talks about the importance of a healthy doctor-patient partnership when treating disease, the part creativity and a "robust will to live" plays in longevity, and the power found in placebos. Cousins writes: "It is doubtful whether the placebo - or any drug, for that matter - would get very far without a patient's robust will to live... The placebo is only a tangible object made essential in an age that feels uncomfortable with intangibles... The placebo, then, is an emissary between the will to live and the body. But the emissary is expendable."
Cousins talks about the need so many seem to have to see their doctor DOing something, and giving them something tangible to help them. But Cousins suggests there may come a time when these "tangibles" are no longer needed. As a Christian Scientist who's learned to turn immediately to the power of Love and Truth for healing, this thought really resonated with me.
Near the end of the book, Cousins asks the question: "Is there a conflict at times between the treatment of disease and the treatment of human beings?" What a great question! If a doctor treats his patient as just a lump of flesh to be prodded, injected, weighed, measured, and tested then, I think, a really important part of the healing process is missing. The best doctors, to my way of thinking, are the ones who are able to listen to their patients, reassure them, provide confidence in their healing, and value them as partners in the process. In my life I have encountered several practitioners with these fine qualities. After reading Cousins's book, and the letters he included from doctors around the country, I am encouraged to believe that there is a growing number of medical physicians ready and willing to treat human beings, rather than just disease.
Karen Molenaar Terrell, author of *Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist*
Plenty is written on the importance of mindset, though it seems more helpful for someone who is sick or diseased. If pain is your issue, the "Managing Chronic Pain" workbook is probably a better choice (even if you're not seeing a Psych).
What remains interesting, though, is his proactive stance on his treatment and how he got the idea for using large doses of vitamin C. I wasn't even aware of this; I'd always thought he'd laughed his way back to health.