Tag Archives: diagnosis

Diagnosis: Truths and Tales Book Giveaway

CONTEST ALERT! Annemarie Goldstein Jutel’s new book has been getting a lot of buzz since its recent release, and we thought you’d want to see what it’s all about.

Diagnosis: Truths and Tales shares stories told from the perspectives of those who receive diagnoses and those who deliver them. Confronting how we address illness in our personal lives and in popular culture, Jutel’s book explores narratives of diagnosis while pondering the impact they have on how we experience health and disease.

Want a copy for yourself? From July 2-7, follow us on Instagram, like our post announcing the book giveaway, and tag a friend. You’ll be entered in a draw to win a FREE copy of Diagnosis: Truths and Tales!


Terms and Conditions

Open to residents of Canada (excluding the Province of Quebec)

  1. CONTEST PERIOD: The 2019 University of Toronto Press Instagram contest commences at 12:00 PM Eastern Time (“ET”) on July 2, 2019, and will end at July 7, 2019 (the “Contest Period”). All times are Eastern Times.
  2. RULES: By entering this Contest, entrants agree to abide by these Contest rules and regulations (the “Official Rules”). The decisions of the independent contest organization with respect to all aspects of the Contest are final. These rules are posted at https://utorontopress.com/ca/blog/2019/07/02/diagnosis-truths-and-tales-book-giveaway/.
  3. ELIGIBILITY: To enter the win the Contest and be eligible to win a Prize (see rule 6), a person (“Entrant”) must, at the time of entry, be a legal resident of Canada (excluding the Province of Quebec) who has reached the age of majority in his/her province or territory of residence. The following individuals and members of such person’s immediate family (including mother, father, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, partner or spouse regardless of where they live) or persons with whom they are domiciled (whether related to the person or not) are not eligible to enter the Contest: employees, officers, directors, shareholders, owners, general and limited partners, agents, representatives, successors.
  4. HOW TO ENTER: During the Contest period, follow @utpress on Instagram, like the post that pertains to the Contest, and tag a friend. Limit one (1) entry per person per day during the contest Period regardless of method of entry. Any person who is found to have entered in a fashion not sanctioned by these Official Rules will be disqualified.
  5. PRIZE: The winner will receive one (1) print copy of Diagnosis: Truths and Tales.
  6. DRAW:
  7. The random draw will include all eligible entries, and will take place on July 8, 2019 at 12:00 PM at the University of Toronto Press offices, located at 800 Bay St. Mezzanine, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3A9.
  8. The winner will be contacted via social media, and will be included in the announcement on Instagram. If a selected Entrant cannot be reached via social media within 7 days of the draw, then he/she will be disqualified and another Entrant will be randomly selected until such time as contact is made via social media with a selected Entrant that satisfies the foregoing requirements or there are no more eligible entries, whichever comes first. University of Toronto Press will not be responsible for failed attempts to contact a selected Entrant.
  9. CONDITIONS OF ENTRY: By entering the Contest, Entrants (i) confirm compliance with these Official Rules including all eligibility requirements, and (ii) agree to be bound by these Official Rules and by the decisions of University of Toronto Press, made in its sole discretion, which shall be final and binding in all matters relating to this Contest. Entrants who have not complied with these Official Rules are subject to disqualification.
  10. CONSENT TO USE PERSONAL INFORMATION: University of Toronto Press respects your right to privacy. The information you provided will only be used for the purpose of administering this Contest and prize fulfillment. For more information regarding University of Toronto Press’s privacy statement, please visit https://utorontopress.com/ca/privacy-policy.

 

The Sentence: The Transformative Power of Storytelling in Diagnosis

In the diagnostic moment on story is told and another one is triggered.

Hon. John Collier. No. 177. Royal Academy and Paris salon. Credit: Wellcome Collection.

Imagine the following scene. You’ve had some symptoms that worried you. You’ve gone to the doctor who agreed that a diagnostic work-up was in order. You’ve had an X-ray, maybe a scan, and some blood work run. The results are back, and you are in the doctor’s office, awaiting the verdict. On the one hand, you’re thinking “It’s probably nothing. I’ve just been overworked recently.” On the other, you are asking yourself, “Suppose it’s something serious?”

We have probably all rehearsed this kind of scene in our heads. What would we do/say/think/feel if the doctor were to say “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you have [name of dire diagnosis].” We might have a list of activities to tick off, people with whom to reconcile, places or things to do or see.  Just getting a diagnosis ends up dividing as Suzanne Fleischman wrote: “a life into ‘before’ and ‘after,’ …[a division]… henceforth superimposed onto every rewrite of the individual’s life story.” She wrote this after her own diagnosis of what was to be a fatal leukemia.

Imagining this story is not hard, if we haven’t experienced or witnessed it before, because the diagnosis is so common a device in stories of all kinds. Diagnosis is, in itself, a story. It links together a set of phenomena in a usually linear manner, it generates an explanation, a plot line, and a denouement, in which a knotted bundle of threads gets untangled.  It is a trope, or a motif. The stories of diagnosis are told in a particular tone, with an expectation of a particular kind of outcome. This is why we can imagine the diagnostic scene. We’ve seen in before in many other guises: a sombre newspaper report about a celebrity learning about an unexpected cancer, a book in which the protagonist must wrestle with the knowledge of his newly-announced disease, a film in which the main character watches her life wind down after learning she has an early-onset dementia. The picture accompanying this post barely needs a caption. We can recognize this scene.

Thinking about diagnosis as a story gives us opportunities. Any story can be retold, or reframed. There are many narrative templates, and not all are linked to devastating change.  Importantly, thinking of diagnosis as a story, we have an opportunity to release ourselves from the dominating grip of diagnosis-as-verdict, diagnosis-as-moment-of-truth.

How about we move away from the contemporary tendency of narrative constructions, be they about diagnosis or something else, to focus on personal change. It is a tendency that my friend and novelist Damien Wilkins laments, as it “leaves out other ways of being in the world.” It’s not that transformation stories don’t have their place, but there are other ways of telling stories.  Save the powerful about-turns for when they matter, he argues: “the notion of personal change – change which is improving – is both disreputable and unmoveable, tarnished and resolute, art’s cheapest trick and its most generous gift.” [i]

Narratives don’t always have to promise change.  If we hearken back to the Greeks, the dominant narrative form focused on observing what happened to people as they endured trials. The trials were administered by fate, and rather than transforming the characters, they revealed them. They ride on, and through, the chaos of life, with only fate as immovable.  In contrast to the change narrative (like the moment the doctor is going to tell us the name of some dreaded malady), it is not a moment where a power structure is revealed. The narrative affirms, rather than changes the character.

Diagnosis: Truths and Tales focuses on revealing the prevalence of the change narrative to which diagnosis clings, highlighting its transformative power, and suggesting a re-narration that will make the experience of illness something easier to bear.


[i] Damien Wilkins, “No Hugging, Some Learning: Writing and Personal Change,” in The Fuse Box: Essays on Writing from Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters, ed.  Emily Perkins and Chris Price (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2017).


Annemarie Goldstein Jutel is Professor of Health at Victoria University of Wellington.