Ruptures and sutures: time, audience and identity in an illness narrative

Sociol Health Illn. 2015 Sep;37(7):1055-71. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.12281. Epub 2015 Apr 29.


First-person accounts of the illnesses experienced by sociologists have taken hybrid experimental forms. I add my voice to this growing tradition with a story about the discovery and treatment of a soft tissue sarcoma in my thigh, chronicled in a journal I kept over many months. The fragments scribbled in the journal became the basis of an extended illness narrative. I interrogate features of the narrative itself, including the handling of time and imagined audiences - those I was writing for. The illness narrative traces how cancer transformed the many identities I enact on a daily basis and how the invisible labour of particular health workers enabled the restoration of several prized identities. These workers - radiation, occupational and physical therapists - are typically subordinated in the medical hierarchy and the interactional work that they do with patients to restore and reconfigure ruptured identities after serious illness needs attention in medical sociology.

Keywords: cancer; narrative; time.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illness Behavior*
  • Life Change Events*
  • Narration*
  • Self Concept*
  • Sociology, Medical
  • Time Factors
  • Writing