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This book is a study of the complex, interconnected physical, psychological, social, and economic stresses that serious or chronic illness inflicts on patients in 20th-century America. The author explores these themes through the retelling of her own experience of a sixteenth-month search in 1984-85 (interspersed with some scholarly commentary) for a diagnosis of lupus and of the gradual evolution of coping strategies since. The author addresses the physical suffering and psychological ramifications of illness, the social stigma and economic disasters that often accompany such an experience, and the dehumanizing responses of the medical world.