June 21st, 2014

doctor ten mini
  • pisica

Terminal illness for a man in his early 50s, modern day setting (UK)

I'm writing a story set in the present-day UK, and one of my secondary characters needs to have a terminal illness, but I am not sure what. Most likely cancer, but I'm open to suggestions. (I read some previous "medicine: illnesses to order" entries and I'm wondering if pancreatic cancer might fit?)


- The character is in his early 50s. He's a university lecturer. He does not want anyone to know about his illness unless it is absolutely necessary.

- It doesn't matter how long the illness has been going on for; it could, for instance, be a case where he had major treatment years ago and has been in remission/not getting any worse for quite some time, but now it *is* becoming worse. But it could also be a quicker onset. Regardless of which it is, from the time the story begins, he has (as far as anyone can predict these things) maybe a year to live, and there will be no miracle cure. This is why I've tentatively ruled out anything where a transplant could help.

- He could have chemo or other regular treatment, but it isn't required (and he might decide not to have treatment if all if it would prolong his life by no more than a few months).

- Other people need to notice that he isn't entirely healthy, i.e. he gets breathless easily while walking or simply looks ill. And this is likely to become more obvious over the course of the story. However, I don't want him to have something degenerative such as motor neurone disease that will put him into a wheelchair and make it blatantly clear that he's deteriorating physically. In other words, the signs of illness that he's showing will preferably be things he can pass off as minor symptoms ("I'm walking slowly these days because I have sciatica") for as long as possible.

- As he's a lecturer, he can probably get away with hiding things longer than he might in a different job. He's only with other people for a reasonably short part of the working week - a few seminars and some faculty/committee meetings - and could reduce that even further by having gone to a part-time position, which could be publicly disguised as his being on research leave. The Head of Department is fully apprised of his illness and willing to make adjustments.

- Around 6-8 months after the beginning of the story, he needs to be admitted to the hospital for something related to his illness, but not "you're about to die this minute". He needs to be able to have conversations, so no comas.

I know this is vague, but hopefully something will fit!

Research: I've done some reading on various chronic diseases (https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/chronic/). Thanks!