National Review author Ayn Rand and her philosophy of individualism are often dismissed as “foolish” or “neo-liberal” because they advocate for “freedom from the constraints of a class system,” but that’s not entirely accurate.
Rand’s ideas about individuality were deeply flawed, and she was one of the worst humanitarians to ever live.
So when it came to the practice of medicine, she believed strongly in the notion that it was better to treat your health by not treating your illness.
“The only thing that matters in life is your health,” she wrote in Atlas Shrugged, a classic anti-capitalism manifesto.
“What do you know about health?
You don’t know anything.”
So when a woman who had suffered a fatal illness was given the choice between life with a dangerous cancer and death from an infection, she chose to die.
That choice ultimately led to her diagnosis with metastatic melanoma, a cancer that, when left untreated, could have been fatal.
“It was not only that I would have been dead, but also that I’d be dying in the next year or two,” she later wrote.
“And then I’d have to face the terrible, horrible, agonizing pain of the unknown.
I’d probably die in a year or so, and then the agony would begin.”
So, as it turned out, Rand did suffer from melanoma.
In her novel Atlas Shreedown, she describes her cancer as the “last-ditch struggle to escape the vicious circle of death.”
But this was not the only melanoma diagnosis that Rand had received, and it wasn’t even the only time she had suffered from it.
The same year Atlas Shredded, Rand also wrote Atlas Shoreditch, a novel that was later adapted into a film starring Samuel L. Jackson.
“I had a disease of the skin,” Rand wrote of her melanoma at the time.
“There was something about it, the dark, horrible shade of black, that made me feel as though I was being watched and observed, and I felt as though my whole being was being scrutinized.
The blackness was my disease, the blackness of it was my torment, my curse.”
In Atlas Shamed, Rand had also faced melanoma and also had her disease treated.
In the book, she wrote: “I saw a doctor, a surgeon, an old lady in a white coat who looked exactly like me.
Her name was Alice Sallis.
She told me, in a soothing voice, that I should have my melanoma removed.
That was when I realized that the whole world was watching.”
She continued, “I realized that I was on my own.
I was alone in the world.”
The world had watched Rand’s melanoma treatments, but it also watched her as a woman with melanoma suffering in silence.
In Atlas, she was a doctor who knew how to treat her disease, but she was also a woman forced to live her life in silence, suffering from a disease that was still a secret to her.
The very idea of a doctor in this story was considered “fucking absurd,” as Rand wrote in her novel.
“In my head, I was thinking, Why am I not allowed to do this?
Why is it that I’m supposed to live a life that has no value or purpose, that is completely outside of the scope of medical practice?”
She continued: “Because I am a woman, I must be afraid of my own disease.
And because I am black, I have to be afraid that I will be judged and condemned for my disease.”
Rand, the self-styled philosopher, also knew that the “whole world” was watching.
In a 1957 essay for the Atlantic Monthly, she told of being stalked by a man who would watch her from the corner of her eye.
When she refused to allow him to see her, he allegedly followed her to her house, where he tried to force himself on her.
Rand wrote that she eventually managed to get him to leave her house and then she “put him in a car and drove to her home.”
When Rand finally escaped the man’s “obsessive gaze,” she had to endure “the constant pain of being watched.”
She told the Atlantic: “It is a kind of physical and psychological torture.
I am alone in this house.
I do not have a window to the world.
I cannot go outside.”
Rand’s experience with the man was just one of many examples of the horrors that she saw in the American prison system.
In 1963, the year before she died, Rand wrote Atlas of a Confederacy, which she wrote during her incarceration in Alabama.
In it, she described the “crisis of the American soul.”
“The whole country is struggling for survival,” she writes.
“We are on the verge of a terrible, inevitable disaster.
We must all do our part.”