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Ghosts in the Machinery: Living With and Beyond Radiotherapy Treatment for Gynaecological Cancer

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>28/07/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Health
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date28/07/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

This paper explores post-treatment experiences of women who have had radiotherapy for gynaecological cancer. Drawing on data from a project which explored post-treatment wellbeing, conceptual metaphors of ghosts/haunting are used to engage with enduring legacies of cancer and ‘neglected matters’ in post-treatment trajectories. Current arrangements of care contribute to the idea that participants are ‘out of the other side of cancer’ once active treatment completes. Despite broader ambitions for holistic cancer rehabilitation, fragilities of body and mind persist, even when the outward representation is one of health, of looking well, of moving on. We show how neglected matters of cancer (visceral late effects, psychological suffering and lives not lived) are part of living with and beyond cancer. These ‘ghosts’ manifest in chronic states of unsettledness that are temporarily relieved by individualised ‘fixes’, such as mobilisation of ‘mind over matter’ discourse and mindfulness. This discourse and its associated tools are a powerful yet impoverished framing of approaches to living with and beyond cancer. We argue for the need to attend to ‘neglected matters’ of post-treatment trajectories differently.