Meeting the Self at the Crossroads: Thoughts on Aging as a Young Cancer Survivor

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Abstract

Purpose of the study:

With nearly 14.5 million cancer survivors currently alive in the United States, it is expected this will rise to roughly 19 million by 2024. As more people will age with a history of cancer than ever before, it is important to consider how experiences of cancer affect the life course through the bending of time and its interpretation. As such, aging as a cancer survivor must be at the forefront of health maintenance across the life course.

Design and Methods:

Through reference to my own cancer experiences in an auto-ethnographic format, this article interprets the illness experience as co-occurring in a young, aging body. This enhances our understanding of biographical reconstruction and individual liminality through descriptions of wisdom imparted by the cancer experience itself. Knowledge and wisdom are further interpreted as enhancing researchers’ understandings of cancer and cancer survivorship.

Results:

In this article, I use my illness experiences as a young person to describe evolving interpretations of the life course, the aging body, and the self.

Implications:

Concepts presented in this article aid researchers’ understanding of how wisdom might be achieved through the experience of protracted illness over time. Such knowledge has important implications for the management of cancer as chronic, which may be most clearly described through the lens of the ill person.

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