Friday, November 9, 2012

Indirect Evidence for an Illness

Just because something isn’t named explicitly, doesn’t mean we cannot identify it. All it takes is reading between the lines, taking the indirect evidence that we do have, and drawing logical conclusions from it.


Case in point: Lodewijk Wesselo’s illness in the 1940s. There’s no medical information available for this, merely mentions he makes himself in various letters. And in those letters, he doesn’t explicitly states what illness he has. All we have are fragmentary comments that describe symptoms and sometimes treatments.

A. “Monday radiation therapy for 8 days for the last time, probably to Amsterdam at the end of the month for examination and then starting to talk. For now, just whispering.”(1)

B. “30 September I was with the radiologist for a check-up, who found a small spot. Knowing the old history, he found it necessary that I notify Dr. N., who came to the same conclusion and said he would have to cut off a piece of it for examination or there was no certainty about what it was. I’ve had a few bad days because of the anesthesia and the ingesting of the fluid. Have taken the bottle to the pathological institute myself, and was notified by Dr. N. on Thursday that it was harmless. End of the month I have to see him again. My voice, I had begun to talk pretty well again, is completely gone again and I have to start all over again. I’ve stopped the speech lessons.”(2)

C. “I am doing well. What seemed evil, God has turned to good, the old wound has healed magnificently and the Lord was pleased. I do not regret the last surgery. Next week I will start speech lessons again.”(3)

D. “I was at the specialist on Saturday and he could call me cured. You understand how thankful we are for this wonderful gift. My voice is not pretty, but there is no doubt it will improve.”(4)

When quote A is made, the illness is clearly nearing its end. Radiation therapy – a standard treatment for cancer – has been given and it’s for the last time. He’s whispering, and quote B & C clearly indicate that this condition came through surgery on the throat area. Quote B tells us the most, namely that there is some kind of ‘spot’ on the throat, and that a biopsy is needed to see if it is evil (see quote C) or in other words malignant – due to “old history”. Quote D tells us he is now cured – good news for Lodewijk – and that he was seeing a specialist.

The surgery, radiation therapy, the biopsy on a spot on his throat, the waiting for news on whether it’s malignant or not, the specialist, it all points to cancer. Throat cancer, to be exact. It’s never explicitly named that, but all the information together makes me pretty confident in calling it that.


Sources:
(1) Correspondence Lodewijk Wesselo during the war years 1940-1945 , Familiearchieven: CBG, fa 00472, familiearchief Wesselo, Doos 1, portfolio 3, CBG, Den Haag. Letter 4 September 1944.

(2) Correspondence Lodewijk Wesselo during the war years 1940-1945, Familiearchieven: CBG, fa 00472, familiearchief Wesselo, Doos 1, portfolio 3, CBG, Den Haag. Letter 10 October 1944.

(3) Correspondence Lodewijk Wesselo during the war years 1940-1945, Familiearchieven: CBG, fa 00472, familiearchief Wesselo, Doos 1, portfolio 3, CBG, Den Haag. Letter 29 October 1944.

(4) Correspondence Lodewijk Wesselo during the war years 1940-1945, Familiearchieven: CBG, fa 00472, familiearchief Wesselo, Doos 1, portfolio 3, CBG, Den Haag. Letter 25 December 1944.

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