Disruption foreclosed: older women's cancer narratives Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • A challenge has emerged to Bury's (1982) conceptualization of chronic illness as biographical disruption. The idea that certain life circumstances--notably older age or the presence of significant health and social problems--render the experience of chronic illness biographically 'continuous' or 'reinforcing' has gained currency in the social study of chronic illness. This article draws from a qualitative study with women diagnosed with cancer in their 70s or 80s. Respondents' narratives suggest that a long life, especially a life characterized by struggle, does provide a context for the assessment of cancer as non-disruptive. However, the study offers evidence that a long life characterized by sufficiency may also be associated with an assessment of cancer as non-disruptive, and that older age and hardship sometimes render chronic illness especially problematic.Centrally, the article examines respondents' oft-cited commitment to avoid ;dwelling' on illness, highlighting how broad cultural and moral discourses, patterns of social interaction and structures of power combine to foreclose older women's accounts of disruption.

publication date

  • July 2008