Chapter 13 Illness Is a Window: Reframing Leukaemia through Dharma Art

In: Topography of Trauma: Fissures, Disruptions and Transfigurations
Nicholas Quin Serenati
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In 1978, Illness as Metaphor emerged from author Susan Sontag inspiring agency in challenging the existence of institutionalised metaphors present in illness discourse. From the concept that life is complex and burdensome in its dual citizenship with death, Sontag writes ‘[t]he metaphor implements the way particularly dreaded diseases are envisaged as an alien ‘other’, as enemies are in modern war’. Sontag’s position calls for the dismissal of illness metaphors that occupy this negative connotation and propagate discouragement, silence and/or shame in the mind of the patient. This chapter is intended to challenge that systemic thinking and offer a new alternative to established metaphors pervading illness discourse. Based on my personal journey with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (aml), the intention of this discourse is to illustrate a re-contextualisation of my illness experience through a dharma art practice. Concentrated on diagnosis, treatment, and healing, a meditative practice is intricately woven with creative production to provide a documented articulation of the liminal spaces found in the memory of my illness. In this research, the process of aesthetising illness promotes healing and unearths a new metaphor to consider for illness discourse. Metaphors are similar to maps, providing an understanding of one kind of experience in terms of another. As a map, the metaphor charts an intellectual terrain that shifts the perspective of experience from here to there. In employing poetry, photography, and video, a visualisation of process communicates a reframed experience with illness and maps the process of healing – my transformation from here to there. In producing a body of research that blends spirituality with creativity, a sophisticated response to my illness is located. As an empowered and impassioned voice, this presentation offers a new, positive metaphor for illness discourse intended to inspire and heal – illness is a window.

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