Cancer in the medical humanities

Over the course of March we will be offering a collection of insights into the different worlds that cancer pervades, bridging creative, clinical, spiritual, scholarly and activist representations and experiences of cancer. In piecing interviews, reflections and reviews from a range of perspectives, it becomes increasingly clear that current understandings of cancer as a social phenomenon are by no means complete or fully understood. It is our hope that the generosity of our contributors will provoke a stimulating and timely discussion on the social experiences and meanings ascribed to cancer, and what the positive implications for clinical practice could entail.

The expert reviews of Frissure (2013, Collins and Jamie) by Dr Gavin Francis (General Practitioner, Edinburgh) and Ruchika Singh (Associate Professor, India) offer a balance of perspective into the embodied experience of one woman’s recovery from mastectomy and her reflections of how it ‘felt’ to have the scar, an enduring texture, explored by a surgeon and artist. The Centre for Medical Humanities has taken a great sense of pride in the publishing of Frissure following the time Kathleen Jamie spent with us as a Fellow of Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study (IAS). With support from the Wellcome Trust and IAS, this remarkable book was published in limited edition by Birlinn and is available for £15.

A discussion of the social and shared experience of cancer would be incomplete without drawing on the vocal and bold movement of cancer activism, provided by Dr Grazia De Michele.

The collection will later feature a review of Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us by Dr Columbia Quigley, an account of cancer treatment and prevention in marginal and minority groups in Australia by Dr Muiris Houston, and an interview with a chaplaincy team serving a paediatric ward which will offer a generous insight into the experience of cancer in childhood and adolescence.

You are invited to not only read and reflect on this collection, but also comment and contribute through our reinvigorated CMH site – a creative platform which continues to push the boundaries of academic enquiry. We anticipate that the unfolding discussion will offer a fresh understanding to those interacting with cancer.

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