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Keywords:

  • illness;
  • public discourse;
  • dying;
  • individual experience;
  • cancer;
  • ideology;
  • illness narratives

Abstract

From folk beliefs about how cancer spreads within the body and why “they” have yet to find a cure for it, to the cultural dimensions of personal condolences, and the ideological dimensions of cancer constructions in the media, I examine the ways in which U.S. culture and culture bearers frame the experience of cancer for cancer patients and their families. Viewing cultural frames as resources to be drawn on in time of need and engaging in participant-observation in the life of a family simultaneously confronted with two cancer diagnoses, one of which was terminal, I conclude that contemporary cultural understandings of cancer in the United States may often work as antiresources threatening lived experience with maddening distortion.