Exploring Identity and Illness Narratives: Studying Young Women’s Experiences of Cystic Fibrosis

Date

2014-04-07

Authors

Petovello, Kristy

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Abstract

Medical advancements and research initiatives in the last two decades have changed the experience of growing up with a chronic illness. Young people living with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a chronic, life-threatening, life-limiting, genetic disease, have benefitted from these advances and are living fuller, healthier, longer lives than previously thought possible. Literature exploring the experiences of young people living with CF has traditionally relied on information from caregivers and health care practitioners. It does not reflect the diverse experiences of young people today, or explore the subjective meanings constructed from experiences. Using a social constructionist and narrative inspired methodology, this study explores illness narratives and identity constructions among three young women living with CF. Their narratives are broad and diverse. Shared elements include; making meaning of their illness, and constructing a multi-faceted, relational, layered and flexible sense of self. The layered experiences of CF are one of many important factors influencing their unfolding identity. Relational processes and socially constructed norms and expectations of illness, health, and gender also influence participants’ unfolding sense of self. This study demonstrates the value of rich conversations exploring identity construction and illness narratives, and the complexities and nuances within individual experiences.

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Keywords

Identity, Illness narrative, Cystic Fibrosis, Social Constructionist, Women, Adolescence

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