In a long list of things that could kill him, Yossarian includes Hodgkin’s disease, the more familiar name for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells named after Thomas Hodgkin, an English physician who first described such abnormalities in 1832. The disease spreads from one group of lymph nodes to another, but in recent decades has responded well to chemo and radiation therapies. Microsoft founder Paul Allen and “Six Feet Under” and “Dexter” star Michael C. Hall are among the celebrities successfully treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Yossarian also fears leukemia, the term for a broad array of cancers of the blood or bone marrow. Also a treatable disease, nearly a quarter of a million adults nevertheless die of it each year.
Often referred to as ALS or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is the most common of five motor neuron diseases. Due to the progressive death of nerve cells, people with ALS experience rapid muscle weakness and increasing difficulty speaking, swallowing, and breathing. The disease is usually fatal within three to five years after diagnosis, though the celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking is unusual for having lived with ALS for more than 50 years.