THE DEEPENING SHADE: Psychological Aspects of Life-threatening Illness by Barbara M. Sourkes

THE DEEPENING SHADE: Psychological Aspects of Life-threatening Illness

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Valuable guidance on living with a life-threatening illness--directed at mental-health professionals but also beneficial for patients, their families, and other caregivers. Sourkes is chief psychologist in pediatrics oncology at the Sidney Farber Cancer Institute (cancer is the example throughout) and an instructor at the Harvard Medical School. Noting that a possibly fatal disease ""acutely heightens the sense of time for the patient and the family,"" she first addresses the psychotherapist: therapy must be firmly set within a framework that allows for both the patient's sense of urgency and his or her physical condition; the needs and reactions of family, care-givers, and therapists must also be considered. She explains the patient's underlying anxiety, at any age, that plans previously made won't be able to be lived out. Loss of control, of identity, and of relationships must all be faced; and Sourkes discusses counter-measures. She then describes the trajectory along which patients travel: from diagnosis--when existence is ""stripped to the essence"" and a decision is made (says one patient: ""there's live, or there's die, and I'm going to live"")--to the terminal stage, when the illness ""no longer responds to conventional treatment."" Along the way in illnesses with remissions and possible survival, Sourkes has observed a ""neutral time""--a state of limbo when the only certainty is uncertainty--and proposes help for the patient in living it actively (as well as for the family struggling with anticipatory grief). In the final chapter--an annotated account of a 19-year-old woman recovering from bone cancer tratement--all the pieces fall into place. No jargoneering or abstracting is involved here: Sourkes has discovered a clear common thread running through people's experiences, and explained it with examples (Alsop, the Ryans, and others) that readers will recognize. A laudable addition to the literature that has previously centered on terminal illness and death.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1982
Publisher: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press