Illness, Identity, and Survivorship: Modern and Postmodern Breast Cancer Narratives

Document Type


Publication Date



Illness challenges identity. Sense of time and routine, relationships, and body undergo significant change. This article analyzes twenty intensive interviews with women who have had breast cancer, to assess how they responded to these challenges and changes. The main theme is survival, which seems to drive behaviors and decisions throughout the illness process. The particular means of communicating the desire to survive, and the specific ways with which identity is dealt, vary among women, however. Some tell stories of their illness in a modernist medical model; others, tell it in a postmodern voice. Additionally, some exhibit both modern and postmodern styles. Medical views, illness management, and gendered body image are central themes in the narratives and provide the framework for the article's organization. This article shows how modern and postmodern theory is applied to everyday illness experience and illustrates the implications of particular illness responses.

Recommended Citation

Hall, Lisa Cox. "Illness, identity, and survivorship: Modern and postmodern breast cancer narratives." Illness, Crisis & Loss 6, no. 3 (1998): 255-274.

DOI for the article