Sontag wrote Illness as Metaphor in 1978, while suffering from breast cancer herself. In her study she reveals that the metaphors and myths surrounding certain illnesses, especially cancer, add greatly to the suffering of the patients and often inhibit them from seeking proper treatment. By demystifying the fantasies surrounding cancer, Sontag shows cancer for what it is - a disease; not a curse, not a punishment, certainly not an embarrassment, and highly curable, if good treatment is found early enough. Almost a decade later, with the outbreak of a new, stigmatized disease replete with mystifications and punitive metaphors, Sontag wrote Aids and Its Metaphors, extending the argument of the earlier book to the AIDS pandemic.
Susan Sontag was born in Manhattan in 1933 and studied at the universities of Chicago, Harvard and Oxford. Her non-fiction works include Against Interpretation, On Photography, Illness as Metaphor, AIDS and its Metaphors and Regarding the Pain of Others. She is also the author of four novels, a collection of stories and several plays. Her books are translated into thirty-two languages. In 2001 she was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the body of her work, and in 2003 she received the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. She died in December 2004.