Masaaki Komori for Unsplash
Masaaki Komori for Unsplash

Zona, Mon Amour: A Micro-autoethnography of a Rare Disease

Zona, Mon Amour: A Micro-autoethnography of a Rare Disease

Photo of her medications by Serpil Aygun Cengiz

“I meet you. I remember you. Who are you? You’re destroying me. You’re good for me.”

Marguerite Duras, Hiroshima Mon Amour

Zona[1]. I have always thought that names of diseases sound so beautiful.

I had chicken pox (varicella) virus as a child. This disease is called suçiçeği in Turkish. Look at the beauty of its name: suçiçeği –in Turkish it is water/aquatic flower. This virus has been living with me in my body since my childhood. It decided to activate (due to internal/external earthquakes[2]) last week while it was quietly living in my nervous tissue. It will continue to live with me even if I recover (I will recover according to modern medicine). Well done.

I have four medications. One of them is Majezik to relieve the acute pain. I can take only two in a day.  Thanks to it, I can make my partly transfer to heaven. My dermatologist told me that she can prescribe me Lyrica which normally sell with a special prescription from the doctor. Because I know it is a medicine also used for epilepsy treatment. Therefore, I did not want it. They sound like the names of a very handsome man and a very attractive woman: Majezik and Lyrica, Eiji Okada and Emmanuella Riva, les amoureux in Hiroshima mon amour.

After a week, I could not sleep last night either. Nevertheless, this time I did not have that much pain indeed. Only inflammatory itching… I am grateful even to this after a lot of pain that lasted for a couple of days.

At the very beginning of my academic career -when I was a very young research assistant- when I came back home from work, I always thought that I was torn apart in the jungle by the wild animals during the day, licked my wounds in my beloved Erdal’s arms till morning, gathered my strength and went back to the same jungle again next day. After all, I felt exactly like that.

This is the thirtieth year of my academic life. My childhood virus lives together with me. And my body is always creating zona by manifesting itself in many different ways. Doctors can only diagnose it when they see the visible red blisters.

Hiroshima Mon Amour Book cover from Amazon.com

[1] Zona is also called shingles in English. Chicken pox (varicella) virus causes zona.

[2] On February 6, 2023, there were two major earthquakes in Turkey that resulted in the death of thousands of people.


The text is translated by Dilek İşler Hayırlı from Turkish.

Image of her medications by Serpil Aygun Cengiz

Hiroshima Mon Amour Book cover from Amazon.com

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I completed my undergraduate education in philosophy, my graduate education in three different fields -folklore, social psychiatry and psychological counseling. I got my PhD in journalism. I work as a lecturer at the Department of Folklore of Ankara University. I continue to edit e-culture series of Ürün Publications. The last academic work I am working on is a book on autoethnography that I am preparing with a group of my colleagues.

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