Abstract

Informed by a mothering-disruption framework, our study examines the illness narratives of women cancer survivors living in Southern Central Appalachia. We collected the stories of twenty-nine women cancer survivors from northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia using a multi-phasic qualitative design. Phase I consisted of women cancer survivors participating in a day-long story circle (n=26). Phase II consisted of women cancer survivors who were unable to attend the story circle; this sample sub-set participated in in-depth interviews (n=3) designed to capture their illness narratives. Participants’ illness narratives revealed the presence of: (1) mothering-disruption whereby cancer adversely impacted the mothering role; and (2) mothering-connection, whereby the cancer experience motivated mother-survivors. Participants’ illness narratives reflected that the role of mother was the preeminent role for mother-survivors and whenever there was oppositional tension between the roles of mother and survivor, the women-survivors seemed to linguistically relocate away from the survivor role and toward the mothering role. As a result, women-survivors seemingly rejected medicalization of their identities by emphasizing their mothering responsibilities, something we term motherizing.

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