Presented at: Making Sense of: Health, Illness and Disease


Anyhow, breast cancer. The year it happened my son was eight. He looked at my chest, the day I told him. We had these matching Pep Boys tee shirts. You know—Manny, Mo, and Jack. He looked at my chest and said, “Which one was it? Manny or Jack?” “Jack, ” I tell him. “What did they do with it?” “I don’t know.” He starts to cry. “Well, I’m going to get it back for you.” (Susan Miller, “My Left Breast, ” 1993) This is the voice of a woman with breast cancer. It is, inextricably, the voice of a mother. But it is not a dualism, not separable; it is the one voice of a caring narrative. How do we teach health professionals to hear the way illness and caring are woven into women’s illness experience? For an answer we turned to the growing fields of illness narrative and narrative medicine. Narrative scholars posit that the key to effective provider-patient communicatio

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