“This was the first time in America that I had to give someone the news of a fatal illness, but it felt like the first time ever. It was as if in Ethiopia, and even in Nairobi, people assumed that all illness – even a trivial or imagined one – was fatal; they expected death. The news to convey in Africa was that you’d kept death at bay. Those things that you couldn’t do, and those diseases you couldn’t reverse, were left unspoken. It was understood. I don’t recall an equivalent word for “prognosis” in Amharic, and I’d never tried to speak for a patient about five-year survival or anything like that. In America, my initial impression was that death or the possibility of it always seemed to come as a surprise, as if we took for granted that we were immortal, and that death was just an option.”

Abraham Verghese – Cutting for Stone, 443