The novel Cancer ward (Solzhenitsyn, 1968) was used to examine the perceptions that cancer patients hold regarding their illness and its treatment, and how these perceptions relate to theoretical models in health psychology. Excerpts were identified, categorized and interpreted using the Self-Regulation Model of illness. The model's dimensions of illness perceptions were apparent throughout Cancer ward. Patients held specific representations about cancer, many of which are similar to those found today. Analysing a novel on cancer provides insight into patients' embodied experiences and perceptions of cancer and treatment. Incorporating illness perceptions into medical care improves the quality of life of patients.