Greater themes

In reading today’s post by Carolyn Thomas at Heart Sisters, she talks about a show on CBC Radio (Michael Enright’s Sunday Edition), and how the interviewer highlighted that illness narratives were not just about the facts of the illness, but also addressed bigger life questions.

That got me thinking about what my illness narrative is about, and what might make it interesting not just to those who have breast cancer, but also to a more general audience. Dealing with a critical incident, that has you contemplating your own mortality certainly brings in themes of larger life questions.

One of the themes that I have in life is the tension between “living for the moment” and “saving for the future”. This is a constant theme in my life – but I’m not sure that comes out in my dissertation draft of my illness narrative. That narrative is too focused on the acute time in treatment when there is no plan for the future, as there is no ability to think beyond a 2-3 month horizon. I recall after active treatment struggling with how to think and plan for events beyond three months.

One of the big life themes that I do address is that of exploring and expressing my values and how my values directly affect my treatment decisions. This really shows in my struggle to decide on breast reconstruction. I struggled with the role my vanity was playing in the decision. I recall the anger and arguments I was making, and realize that I was working really hard to convince myself of the decision, but the decision didn’t feel right inside. In the end, with the help of my surgeon, I changed my mind. I am thankful for that help. I can think of how others might interpret her behaviour as pushy, but for me it was the push I needed to really test my conviction in the decision I had made. I’m glad that I changed my mind.

That brings me back to themes. I need to do some more thinking on the greater themes. My dissertation really focuses on the “knowledge” related themes, looking at what knowledges I was imparting on my blog. It doesn’t delve deeper to look at the larger life themes that I’m addressing. I am not wondering if that is part of the discussion that needs to happen in my discussion chapter (the one big chapter I have left to write). The change in focus that highlights that the story isn’t just about the knowledge that is being imparted, but that the illness story is also about larger life questions.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Rebecca – thanks for mentioning (and linking to) this morning’s HEART SISTERS blog post about the illness narrative.

    It was a great relief to me when I first heard Michael interviewing Dr. Koven on CBC. The illness narrative, she said, isn’t just about illness, “but can also be about big themes like identity and life and death and love and resilience.”

    That is truly as important, as you say, as the knowledge that’s being imparted.

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