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06.09.2018 | Scientific Contribution | Ausgabe 2/2019

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 2/2019

Sharing lives, sharing bodies: partners negotiating breast cancer experiences

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy > Ausgabe 2/2019
Marjolein de Boer, Kristin Zeiler, Jenny Slatman
Wichtige Hinweise
You never have cancer alone, always together. Our body, yes; or, well, I do not really mean ‘our’ body, but she and I … we have gone through a lot. (Roland)


By drawing on Jean-Luc Nancy’s philosophy of ontological relationality, this article explores what it means to be a ‘we’ in breast cancer. What are the characteristics—the extent and diversity—of couples’ relationally lived experiences of bodily changes in breast cancer? Through analyzing duo interviews with diagnosed women and their partners, four ways of sharing an embodied life are identified. (1) While ‘being different together’, partners have different, albeit connected kinds of experiences of breast cancer. (2) While ‘being there for you’, partners take care of each other in mutually dependent ways. (3) While ‘being reconnected to you’, partners (re-)relate to each other through intimacy and sexuality. (4) While ‘being like you’, partners synchronize their embodied daily lives to one another, sometimes up to the point that the self cannot be distinguished from the other anymore. These ways reveal that being a ‘we’ involves complex affective, bodily encounters in which the many fault lines that both separate partners into individual selves and join them together as a unity are continuously reshaped and negotiated. Being a ‘we’ may be understood as something we have to do. Therefore, in being true to the legacy of Nancy, we argue at the end of this article for a sensible praxis of sharing a life and body, particularly in breast cancer.

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