Anatomy of an Illness – A Bite-sized Review


Anatomy of an Illness – Reflections on Healing and Regeneration by Norman Cousins

It seemed clear to me that if I was to be that 1 in five hundred I had better be something more than a passive observer.

Norman Cousins on Surviving a terminal illness – The Anatomy of an Illness

Author Tidbit

Norman Cousins is a bestselling author that writes on Illness overcome and the Triumph of the Human Spirit.

Who’s it Written for?

Anyone seeking to understand what people with chronic and terminal illnesses are going through.

I had a fast-growing conviction that a hospital was no place for a person who is seriously ill. The surprising lack of respect for basic sanitation; … The extensive and sometimes promiscuous use of X-ray equipment; the seemingly indiscriminate administration of tranquilizers and powerful painkillers, sometimes more for the convenience of hospital staff in managing patience than for therapeutic needs;

The Anatomy of an Illness – Norman Cousins

What’s it about?

It’s about what it says in the title: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration of a chronic illness. When diagnosed with a serious illness that gave him a 1 in 500 chance of survival, Cousins decided to take his health into his own hands. In this experience, he shares critical thoughts about hospitals and the systems we’ve come to accept as normal.

3 Takeaways

  1. The “will to live” plays a crucial role in the healing process.
  2. Drugs are not always necessary, hence the effectiveness of placebos.
  3. Pain is not the ultimate enemy.

1 Con

The Anatomy of an Illness is not for the squeamish. I didn’t go into the field of medicine for many reasons including my inability to stomach blood, among other things. I found some parts a bit hard to read. For example:

Nodules appeared on my body, gravel-like substances under the skin, indicating the systemic nature of the disease. At the low point of my illness, my jaws were almost locked.

The Anatomy of an Illness – Norman Cousins

1 Pro

Norman Cousins gets right to the point. The Anatomy of an Illness is informative, concise and a very quick read, I absorbed it in a day.

Cop it or Drop it?

Cop it! If you know absolutely anyone living with a chronic illness, read The Anatomy of an Illness. You know not of empathy, until you read a book written from the perspective of the patient. I hope doctors consider reading this book as well, for the greater good.


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