In 1978 Susan Sontag wrote Illness as Metaphor, a classic work described by Newsweek as “one of the most liberating books of its time.” A cancer patient herself when she was writing the book, Sontag shows how the metaphors and myths surrounding certain illnesses, especially cancer, add greatly to the suffering of patients and often inhibit them from seeking proper treatment. By demystifying the fantasies surrounding cancer, Sontag shows cancer for what it is—just a disease. Cancer, she argues, is not a curse, not a punishment, certainly not an embarrassment, and it is highly curable, if good treatment is followed.
Almost a decade later, with the outbreak of a new, stigmatized disease replete with mystifications and punitive metaphors, Sontag wrote a sequel to Illness as Metaphor, extending the argument of the earlier book to the AIDS pandemic.
These two essays now published together, Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors, have been translated into many languages and continue to have an enormous influence on the thinking of medical professionals and, above all, on the lives of many thousands of patients and caregivers.