Chronic Illness Experience


The societal perception of illness has changed since the time where people saw sickness as a repercussion of evil deeds. The community considered the sick as if they were bearing punishment for acting contrary to the social norms. This fact was heavily evident with the victims of leprosy whom people regarded as sinners and did not allow them to mingle fully with all the rest in the society. In this era, everyone understands illness not as the consequence of the immoral behavior. In the previous era, illness was analyzed on a ‘naive’ based scientific reasoning. The society considered sickness as a result of a person living “unhealthy behavior.” However, with time it has become clear that those are representatives of medicine field that have the responsibility of labeling what meets the criteria of the term illness or what does not. This paper brings forth an in-depth analysis of the applicability of medicalization and sick role concepts based on the experience with a chronic disease in the current social order.

A Battle with Cancerous Tumor

It was two years ago when my aunt started having headaches that she managed to handle using the common over-the-counter painkillers. Soon the headaches became frequent, and that was the time when she realized that something was not well. On visiting the hospital and explaining to the doctor the symptoms, she got the advice to take a CT scan that would help the doctor make a detailed diagnosis. The results revealed that she had a tumor near her pituitary gland. A further analysis showed that, indeed, the tumor was cancerous, which was an additional stroke for my aunt. Surgery was out of the question according to the doctor, due to the delicate position of the tumor and the stage on which it was during the diagnosis. The only way out was using suppressing medication, which help to slow down the growth of the tumor, and constant therapy to fight the cancerous cells. This moment was the beginning of a new life full of challenges regarding the constant battle with cancer and severe headaches.

Medicalization Aspect of the Battle

My aunt’s battle with cancer was a tough one, and though sometimes she wanted to give up, we were all there to help her not only financially but, above all, emotionally. She was always conscious of the food she ate because, through her lineage, cancer has always been a common notion. Her grandmother and her father died of cancer, and so she and her siblings knew of the increased risk they face of getting this disease. According to her doctor, heredity could have been one of the reasons of her diagnosis. However, the doctor added that cancer cases had been on the rise mainly due to people’s lifestyle mostly in the form of feeding habits. The explanation brought to an end all the previous beliefs that the family had, but it was still devastating news to her and all other members of her family. It is because of the bad experience they have had with cancer cases with no one living for more than one year after being diagnosed with this disease.

The commonly held belief about cancer in the society is brought about by the insights of doctors and experts in the field of medicine that the survival rate is low after a late diagnosis (Fisher et.al, 2015). This fact added to my aunt’s troubles since it was not that encouraging together with the evidence of her relatives having not survived. She quickly got onto the medication plan her doctor proposed that included heavy medication that was making her puke no to mention her weight loss. The radiotherapy sessions were very exhausting and made her lose her hair which she had kept for a long time. Moreover, further the sessions led to her serious loss of weight and appetite, but this was a battle that she had to win.

Analysis of Medicalization Concepts Based on the Experience

When a situation is medicalized, doctors are the only ones with a proper diagnosing power. By means of medications, my aunt was able to understand better the reason behind her predicaments. Another concept of medicalization is that it brings forth the commonly held understanding of a phenomenon. This situation was very true in terms of the doctors defining the possible cause of my aunt’s diagnosis. Moreover, medicalization may sometimes demand a treatment that many people may not volunteer to take. The radiotherapy best demonstrates the applicability of this concept. Many patients find radiotherapy sessions very hard, and my aunt was not the exception

(American Association for Cancer Research, 2013). However, circumstances force the patients to comply fully with the doctors’ demands. Once a situation has been medicalized, the only logic way to response is medical treatment, which is another concept of medicalization. As a cancer patient, my aunt stepped on the recovery path and undertook all the procedures that her doctor prescribed. This occurrence is a clear demonstration that medicalization concepts are applicable to many medical cases.


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Sick Role Aspect of the Battle

Sick role concept forms the basis under which the society views the diseased. To my aunt, this aspect of the struggle was the most devastating one. She had always been hard working and independent woman and kept her problems inside unless it was a serious one. With that situation, things had changed, and she had to move back to her mother’s home. She also had to take a three-month sick leave. However, her company was very supportive and even allowed some of her colleagues to visit and encourage her throughout the battle. During all that time, her mother was in charge of her life and did everything that seemed too much to my aunt. The mother constantly reminded her daughter not to blame herself for what happened but rather concentrate on the recovery journey. My aunt, on her part, was determined to change what was her new reality and followed everything the doctor demanded of her. She wanted to get back to her independent lifestyle and return to her job. After a while things started turning around and soon she learned good news from her doctor about the suppressed growth of the tumor. Two years down the line she is strong and happy and very much independent lady working full time again.

Analysis of Sick Role Concepts Based on the Experience

The main concept held by the sick role framework is the fact that diseased people have legitimate reason for not fulfilling their societal responsibilities. Once my aunt informed her boss of her illness, she was instantly given three-month sick leave with an assurance of an extension if the situation would demand so. Her mother, on the other hand, expected her to move back to her place and help with housekeeping chores. Very often illness takes over one’s ability, although patients should not blame themselves for falling sick. My aunt’s mom constantly reminded her to stay strong and keep her spirit. The diseased should also seek and follow availed medical help and advice. My aunt once diagnosed with cancer followed all the doctor expected from her. The illustrations present that the sick role approach to illness still provides applicable insights to the current social order.


Illness is easier to handle as a group challenge rather than an individual one. My aunt’s case is a clear demonstration that when any illness, be it chronic or common one, happens in one’s life, support plays a crucial role in the patient’s recovery. The support she got from her boss, her mother, and all the family members made the difficult moment manageable. It is also clear that both ‘sick role’ and ‘medicalization’ concepts present assertions that are still applicable to some medical cases. It can be seen through the high level of understanding showed to my aunt throughout her battle with cancer and the detailed follow-up she did to the doctor’s demands.

Side Notes

I want to recognize the input of my friend, who helped me come up with the best approach to handling the paper. In an in-depth discussion, we decided that the best approach would be to divide the paper into two parts: the medicalization and the sick role. This method was helpful in bringing out the demands of the paper in a clearer manner. On the other hand, I helped my partner understand fully the requirements of the assignment. I was able to enlighten my friend on the primary aspects that have to be in the paper. Moreover, it was a healthy exchange that helped us understand the question better in addition to coming up with the best approach to follow in handling the task.

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