A medical school course called Health, Illness, and Society introduced me to the terms “disease” and “illness,” terms I thought I had mastered in elementary school. They sound awfully similar, right? Well…not quite: disease is the name of a diagnosis given by medical professionals, while illness is the way patients are affected by that diagnosis. This relationship is part of the reason several medical conditions can present differently from their textbook descriptions. It is not only the constellation of symptoms but also the feelings attributed to them that make each person’s illness unique. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote “One Disease, Many Illnesses” in theme and variations form to illustrate the different experiences affected individuals have had. Whether you personally have or have not fallen ill with the virus, I invite you to cultivate empathy as you tune into the sonic stories of four anonymous patients narrated by the violin and piano.
— Kyler Shin, University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria, Class of 2022