The Wounded Storyteller

The Wounded Storyteller is the title of a book by Arthur Frank which portrays  individuals  who live with some form of illness or disability in what he terms  “remission society.”  His basic premise is that we are more than mere “victims” of a disease but that we are “wounded storytellers” who tell our stories to make sense of our suffering and thereby find healing.

According to the author, there exists three narratives of illness – restitution, chaos, and quest. I recognise myself in the last of these – the quest narrative – seeing cancer as a journey/a quest on which the person can be transformed.

This then is the story behind Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer. It is a personal journey; the intention is not to offer advice but merely the hope that in my story others on the same path may find some resonance and the knowledge that they are not alone.  There are many blogs, chat forums and websites available  for those newly diagnosed, or going through treatment, but not so much out there on what it is like to have gone through the experience and how you integrate it with the rest of your life. Finishing treatment can be a very unsettling time for a lot of people. You can feel cut adrift and alone – once the hectic round of hospital visits, treatment and check ups are over, what then? Often this is when the real psychological and emotional work starts.

Cancer, strikes a severe blow at our sense of self and our sense of past, present and future. The apparent randomness of a cancer diagnosis shakes our very sense of identity to the very core and nothing will ever feel certain again. As we tell our story, we rebuild our wounded selves, learning to integrate our past, present and futures selves. Learning how others walked this path can enrich our own journey of discovery.

For me, moving on means that while I do not wish to stay stuck in the past and rehash the experience of going through treatment, I do still want to be kept up to date with the latest treatments and breakthroughs, in order that I can become a more informed advocate and hopefully other women may benefit from my experience. This blog will therefore be a mixture of the latest cancer news alongside a more personal journey of moving beyond breast cancer and living a transformed life.
Finally, in Frank’s book, he quotes something quite beautiful from nobel peace prize winner and theologian, Albert Schweitzer, which I have paraphrased below, substituting the patriarchal brotherhood for sisterhood, with apologies to the purists:
Whoever among us has learned through personal experience what pain and anxiety really are must help to ensure that those out there who are in … need obtain the same help that once came to her. She no longer belongs to herself alone; she has become the sister of all who suffer.