Doing Illness

Cancer Narratives in Digital Media


  • Christian Lenemark



Through three case studies, the article explores how digital media have been used in recent years to depict and comprehend experiences of cancer. It first investigates the illness blog, specifically Swedish journalist and musician Kristian Gidlund’s immensely popular blog In My Body, in which he, from 2011 to 2013, shared the narrative of his struggle with an aggressive, incurable, and ultimately deadly stomach cancer. It continues by discussing Italian engineer, artist, and hacker Salvatore Iaconesi’s digital open-source project La Cura – The Cure (2012), which has great relevance from both the digital and the medical humanities perspectives in the way Iaconesi uses his personal narrative of brain cancer to encourage people to join his struggle to find a cure. Finally, it analyzes the American couple Ryan and Amy Green’s videogame That Dragon, Cancer (2016). A game differing significantly from video and computer games in general and from other games taking cancer as their subject by letting the player enter the role of caregiver to a small child dying of cancer. Expanding on Lisa Diedrich’s theoretical concept of “doing illness”, the article emphasizes the performative dimension of narrating illness in digital media, considering how these authors and creators negotiate with narrative, cultural, and medial scripts when portraying their cancer experiences. It highlights the interactive and participatory dimension of doing illness in digital media, by exploring how the blog, open-source project, and videogame both invite and limit the audience’s opportunities to interact and participate with the illness narrative conveyed.





Lenemark, C. (2019). Doing Illness: Cancer Narratives in Digital Media. Tidsskrift for Forskning I Sygdom Og Samfund, 16(31).