The Damocles Syndrome: Where We Are Today
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Gerald Koocher, a psychologist who focuses on adaptation to childhood illnesses, wrote a book in the 1980s regarding the long-term effects faced by survivors of childhood cancer. The title of the book, The Damocles Syndrome, derives from a Greek legend involving a courtier, Damocles, who after expressing envy of his ruler, is given the opportunity to switch places with his king and live a life of fortune and power for one day. As he sits at a banquet table, enjoying “the good life,” he suddenly notices a sword hanging from the ceiling above him, held from slicing him in two by merely a thin hair. This legend begs the question that Dr. Koocher draws from in his book: can one lead a truly happy life when some element of fear perpetually hangs over their head?
As a fourth-year medical student planning on a career in pediatrics, I embarked on an independent study focused on Koocher’s topic and the impact of survivorship of childhood cancer. Through interviews, literature reviews, and...