"Survivor" has become a ubiquitous and largely unquestioned term in culture and cancer discourse. While anecdotal evidence suggests women with breast cancer find fault with survivor images and discourse, the extent to which women identify with or reject the survivor identity has not been empirically studied. This paper examines whether women treated for breast cancer embrace survivorship. Data come from 39 in-depth interviews with women in the United States who completed treatment for breast cancer 3-18 months prior to the interview. Despite the positive meanings attached to survivorship, many women altered the meaning of survivorship or rejected survivorship. In particular, the survivor discourse alienated women who struggle with the threat of recurrence, who feel their cancer experience was not severe enough to merit this title, or who desire a private disease experience. These findings illustrate the failure of our cultural conceptions of cancer to adequately reflect lived experience and highlight how individuals actively "craft" illness meanings.
- Breast cancer
- Illness experience
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- History and Philosophy of Science