|Leo Tolstoy 1848 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
"Cancer. Cancer is the Word.
In 1886 Leo Tolstoy's novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich was published. To make a short story even shorter, Ivan is a carefree guy until he gets sick. Nobody can or will say what illness he has, but it's clear he's dying. Of the many interpretations of the book's meaning, I find Susan Sontag's to be most compelling: that he has the one disease that has traditionally been such a scourge on humankind that saying the word itself in some cultures is taboo: Ivan has cancer.
Because of the inability or unwillingness of anyone to confront the disease, Ivan dies.
That was a fictional story from 1886.
Here's a real one from 11 August 2012: it is not uncommon for women in the Vietnamese community to die from untreated cancers because of the many taboo associations with the disease. [Loury, Erin. "In Vietnamese community, treating taboos on cancer." Los Angeles Times. ]"
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