The Following Scan Will Last Five Minutes
On the Meaning and Consequences of Illness in our Society
An exhilarating encounter between poetry and the essay form
In The Following Scan Will Last Five Minutes Lieke Marsman investigates through ten poems and an essay how a sick body relates to a sick world. ‘My little cancer book’ Marsman called it on Twitter.
But this essay is not just about being ill, it also delves deep into political issues that become personal. The book is a light-footed rally against populism, against facile political assumptions about informal care and about the consequences of being ill.
At first, twenty-seven-year-old Lieke Marsman’s shoulder pain was diagnosed as a repetitive strain injury, she was a writer after all. But when the pain finally became unbearable, scans revealed a malignant tumour: a rare form of cartilage cancer not usually found in younger people. Behind her right shoulder blade was a lump the size of a grapefruit. Mars-man went under the knife a week later. Tumour removed, cancer gone, problem solved – except that her existence had been turned upside down. She decided to write down her thoughts and observations in order to give shape to the chaos she was caught up in.
Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals and Illness as Metaphor by Susan Sontag provided inspiration. In addition to accounts of their personal experiences, both books provide an analysis of the status of cancer and cancer patients in society, an approach Marsman also adopts.
The Following Scan Will Last Five Minutes is not merely introspective, it is also a plea to look around and assume one’s social responsibility in a sick society. This essay is about much more than just a young woman struggling with cancer, it addresses the meaning and consequences of illness in our modern neoliberal society.