For those affected, chronic illness is a frightening, often isolating experience. Part of its power lies in its invisibility: to the onlooker, the chronically ill often appears “normal”. In addition, with the passing of time the absence of an immediate threat to life can lead the observer – medical professional or otherwise – to misjudge the true impact of the condition on the sufferer. This paper draws on an original corpus of interviews with six Italian women living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus. It is qualitative in nature and is informed by insights gained from Discourse Analysis, Narrative Analysis, and functional approaches to language. It will show how patients construe and present their experience of chronic illness, whilst shaping a new sense of self. In particular, the paper will highlight the often neglected impact of aggressive pharmacological therapies on sufferers. It will become apparent that for the patient undergoing such therapies, it is often the treatment, rather than the disease, which is construed as having the worst impact on quality of life. As my informants clearly indicate, a better appreciation of this fact by the medical profession would not only be appreciated, but also enhance quality of life, as well as the quality of medical encounters.
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