Within Constellations, Marianne is diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme. This fast-growing cancer emerges from star-shaped cells, an acute irony for a physicist. Seizures are among the symptoms Marianne recounts experiencing. But the main symptom we see within the play affects her ability to communicate with Roland.
Following Marianne’s diagnosis, she tries to articulate her difficulty in communicating and reading. She says, “It’s not just speaking. […] Reading. I’m having trouble–Numbers, words, on the page. I don’t know how to explain it. Typing. Typing, as well.” (43). We see her struggle to find the the right word when speaking. This struggle is commonly known as aphasia, or, according to the National Aphasia Association, “an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person’s ability to process language, but does not affect intelligence. Aphasia impairs the ability to speak and understand others.” Expressive aphasia is one of the many symptoms of this particular type of brain tumor. The experience of aphasia is challenging for both patients and their loved ones, as the testimony shared by the mother of a woman experiencing aphasia illustrates. The website Aphasia Corner has created a series of online simulations to both illustrate the experience of aphasia and to offer additional resources.