The diagnosis of a life-limiting illness tends to have a profound effect on one’s experience of self and relationship with others (Bury, 1982). Finding out one has a life-limiting condition (or that one’s child or another loved one is seriously ill, significantly impaired and/or may die) can give rise to a range of powerful emotions including shock, anger, anxiety and fear: fear of the pain and other symptoms associated with the disease, of losing control, becoming increasingly dependent, intolerant, driving one’s partner (or another loved one) away, and of dying. Being ill confronts one with changes in experiences of embodiment, with the confusion of becoming someone different even though one is still the same person (Swoboda, 2006). This sense of disruption is not only relevant to situations of actual illness: many ‘previvors’ report a similar sense of disruption on being told they have a genetic predisposition to developing life-limiting conditions, as for example when blood tests reveal mutations to the BRCA 1 or 2 gene, signifying one has hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome (Hamilton, Moyer and Lobel, 2009). Some people respond by drawing on beliefs and memories that help to maintain a sense of continuity between the past, present and future. In other cases, illness becomes a ‘turning point’ (Le Shan, 1989), opening up the possibility of changes that lead to a more comfortable and fulfilling experience of self and relationship with others.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Individual and Family Experiences of Illness and Death
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number