Tag Archives: Dr. Suzanne Koven

When an illness narrative isn’t just about illness

2 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     September 2, 2018

The ink was barely dry on the book contract I’d signed with Johns Hopkins University Press on the morning I tuned in, as I like to do every weekend, to Michael Enright’s Sunday Edition show on CBC Radio.

Michael’s guest that morning couldn’t have been more appropriate, given the project I was just beginning. A physician-turned-author named Dr. Suzanne Koven was talking about people who write first-person accounts of their health crises, books that Michael indelicately referred to as “sick lit“.(1)  . Illness, Michael began, is always more interesting to the ill person than to the reader. But Dr. Koven quickly interjected.  Continue reading

Should you bring that list of questions to your doctor?

11 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

In a recent essay published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Suzanne Koven* recalls many conversations she had with her father (like her, a physician) in which he loved to reminisce about his own long career in medicine. But there’s one reminiscence she still bristles at, as she explains(1):

“The story was about ladies – always they were ‘ladies’ – and something he called la maladie du petit papier: ‘the disease of the little paper.’

“They would come to his office and withdraw from their purses tiny pieces of paper that unfolded into large sheets on which they’d written long lists of medical complaints. ‘You know what I did then?’ Dad asked. I did, but I let him tell me again anyway. ‘I’d listen to each symptom carefully, and say ‘yes’ or ‘I see’. 

“That’s all. And when a lady finally reached the end of her list, she would say: ‘Oh doctor, I feel so much better!’

“The point is, all those ladies needed was someone to listen.”

The notion that whatever was bothering these silly ladies was all in their heads was once a long held truism within the medical profession.  Continue reading