The Imperative for a Triumph-Over-Tragedy Story in Women’s Accounts of Undergoing Chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer

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We aimed to examine how women construct their experiences of chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer. Through semistructured interviews, we explored the accounts of 18 Australian women about their experiences within a broader cultural imperative—or discourse—to “think positively.” By applying a critical realist lens to the analysis, we identified two discursive themes that shaped women’s accounts. The “feeling different and managing support” theme highlights the identity challenges women faced because of the lack of formal support for ovarian cancer. Conversely, the theme “women’s reconstructions of difficult experiences” illustrates the imperative for women to present a positive story as a way of restoring their position of a lucky and stoic survivor. Such speaking served to mask some of the underlying difficulties that were part of these women’s experiences. Health care professionals need to consider looking for the hidden stories of vulnerability that lie beneath the triumphant ones.

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