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Taking Charge of Breast Cancer

Julia Ericksen

Publication Year: 2008

Vividly showcasing diverse voices and experiences, this book illuminates an all-too-common experience by exploring how women respond to a diagnosis of breast cancer. Drawing from interviews in which women describe their journeys from diagnosis through treatment and recovery, Julia A. Ericksen explores topics ranging from women's trust in their doctors to their feelings about appearance and sexuality. She includes the experiences of women who do not put their faith in traditional medicine as well as those who do, and she takes a look at the long-term consequences of this disease. What emerges from her powerful and often moving account is a compelling picture of how cultural messages about breast cancer shape women's ideas about their illness, how breast cancer affects their relationships with friends and family, why some of them become activists, and more. Ericksen, herself a breast cancer survivor, has written an accessible book that reveals much about the ways in which we narrate our illnesses and about how these narratives shape the paths we travel once diagnosed.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Tables

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

I have discussed my experiences with breast cancer and the reasons I came to write this book in the introduction, so I will not repeat them here. I will only add that writing about breast cancer is one of the most rewarding and difficult things I have done. As I told their stories, I could remember every woman I wrote about, ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-12

Writing a book about women’s experiences with breast cancer allowed me to come to terms with my own diagnosis in December 1997. Like many of those I interviewed, I had not seen breast cancer on my horizon. My mother was still alive and physically robust in her nineties, as were my father and his sister. ...

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1. Telling Stories

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pp. 13-37

Jo-Ellen’s breast cancer story takes the form of a woman’s worst nightmare. Her adoptive mother was a forty-year survivor, so Jo-Ellen knew the disease was something that women might get but could also recover from.1 Upon finding a lump at age twenty-eight, Jo-Ellen went to a gynecologist who told her that it was only a cyst, ...

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2. Following the Doctors’ Orders

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pp. 38-62

Like most of the women I interviewed, Carla, a single mother of three young children, told a well-rehearsed story, beginning with the time before she was diagnosed, moving through treatment, and ending with life after breast cancer. Such accounts often reflected the stories about cancer that women had seen in the media or heard described by others. ...

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3. Patients and Doctors as Partners

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pp. 63-99

When Joann, a thirty-four-year-old mother of three children under age seven, learned she had breast cancer, she was not surprised at being diagnosed so young. Her family had a history of breast cancer, including Joann’s mother, her mother’s sister, and her grandmother, and so she had long assumed she had inherited the risk.1 ...

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4. Faith in the Ultimate Authority

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pp. 100-123

Bella, an African American woman in her sixties, looked much younger with a spectacular figure and lovely face. She had worked with cancer patients, so she knew that breast cancer could happen to anyone, and she checked herself “at least once a week.” She reported that the lump leading to her own diagnosis “just stuck right out of nowhere.” ...

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5. Opposing the Mainstream

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pp. 124-153

Before her breast cancer diagnosis, Violet, a fifty-year-old American writer living in Greece, had little confidence in the medical profession. However, since her mother’s death from breast cancer some years earlier, she had become anxious about her breasts and had started having regular mammograms. ...

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6. The Assault on the Breast

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pp. 154-180

Amanda, the youngest woman in my study, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age twenty-six. Amanda, who worked in information technology, responded to her diagnosis as a biomedical expert. She first worried about her chances of survival, and then, to reassure herself, she learned everything about her disease. ...

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7. Bodies after Cancer

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pp. 181-204

After their treatment for breast cancer, the women I interviewed remained acutely aware of the changes to their breasts every time they looked in the mirror. Postlumpectomy breasts usually showed the damage clearly. For women who had a mastectomy, reconstruction could lessen its impact, ...

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8. Breast Cancer Activism, Education, and Support

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pp. 205-232

In the New York Times Sunday Magazine for December 22, 1996, Lisa Belkin asked how breast cancer had become “this year’s cause.”1 With the benefit of hindsight, the only problem with her question is that she should have asked how breast cancer became the cause of the 1990s. We might also ask why it remains so prominent. ...

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Conclusion

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pp. 233-258

Of my ninety-six respondents, three had metastatic breast cancer at the time of the interview.1 These women were not able to put their illness experiences behind them; the illness stretched before them endlessly. All three had response patterns that differed from those of other women in this study, ...

Notes

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pp. 259-292

Bibliography

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pp. 293-306

Index

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pp. 307-319


E-ISBN-13: 9780520941182
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520252929

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2008