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Stitching Together Past and Present: Narratives of Biographical Reconstruction During Chronic Illness

By Frances Reynolds

Abstract

Many studies have noted that a strong sense of biographical disruption can\ud follow the onset of chronic illness. There has been limited research into\ud people’s ways of managing this disruption in the longer term. This study\ud elicited life narratives from four women, who had experienced serious chronic\ud illness (such as cancer) for at least four years. The women joined the study\ud because they had identified themselves as discovering creative occupations\ud (such as textile arts) in the aftermath of diagnosis. Their narratives revealed\ud how creativity had become central to their subjective well-being, and physical\ud resilience. Their accounts document how immersion in creative occupations\ud permitted strong connections to be forged between former and current\ud identities, repairing the initial disruption that had been experienced, and\ud facilitating a strong sense of ability rather than impairment. The narratives in\ud which discovery of the creative occupation are described are often marked by\ud humour. This paper explores the multiple meanings that humour may serve in\ud the women’s responses to the interview, and the choices that may be made\ud during narrative analysis. The participants appear, on the surface, to be living\ud very different lives from those that they had enjoyed when healthy, but their\ud accounts make strong connections between present and past roles, abilities and\ud interests, demonstrating a sense of biographical continuity

Topics: R1, H1, BF
Publisher: University of Huddersfield
Year: 2002
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.hud.ac.uk:5139

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