November 19, 2008

Cancer and Self Identity

What the hell do sociologists do anyway? This one studies the lives of cancer patients: Kelly Adams, a senior at Kenyon College is writing her thesis on the ways in which cancer patients incorporate their experiences with cancer into their new identities as survivors.

Sound heady? Well it is not. I sat down with her interview questionnaire this weekend and her questions cut straight to the core of my cancer experience. An hour of tackling her provocative questions was like a free therapy session, minus a kooky lady sitting across from me staring at one of four strategically placed clocks.

Kelly became interested in this subject matter while working at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston in the Lance Armstrong Foundation Adult Survivorship Clinic and the David B. Perini Jr., Quality of Life Clinic for Childhood Cancer Survivors. I’m excited to see where her work leads her next. If you are interested in getting in on the action, contact her to see if you would be a good match for her study:

As part of Everybody Want You Week on my blog, I’m curious to know if you enjoy participating in these kinds of research studies as much as I do or would you rather keep your cancer experience a more private matter?

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  1. Anonymous Says:
    November 19th, 2008 at 12:27 PM

    I’ve often wondered if the results of sociological studies get skewed by “self-selecting,” so to speak, only those outgoing enough to share their experiences.

    It does seem, however, that our culture is more comfortable with public sharing than it ever has been before. So maybe more people are willing to share.

  2. Everything Changes Says:
    November 19th, 2008 at 1:02 PM

    Commenter #1:

    This is an excellent point you raise. When writing my book, I was hell bent on working around the catch 22 you mentioned that comes along with the self-selecting factor: If people are not outspoken, or not self-selectors, how do we hear their opinions? It took loads of leg work but I found and interviewed patients who were not outspoken, who consider cancer a private matter, don’t attend support groups, and wanted to use a pseudonym. These are such important voices that are rarely heard.

    In addition to the “self-selecting” factor, I have concerns that many psychology/sociology researchers recruit via cancer support organizations and online social networking groups. This skews the results because they are hearing from people who value support groups and survivorship contact in ways that others patients may not.

    Thanks for your comment!

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