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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/29709

Title: “So, are you back to work yet?” Re-conceptualizing ‘work’ and ‘return to work’ in the context of primary bone cancer
Authors: Parsons, JA
Eakin, J
Franche, RL
Bell, RS
Davis, AM
Keywords: Experience of illness, Narrative, Return to work, Osteosarcoma, Identity, Interviews
Issue Date: 11-Oct-2008
Publisher: Social Science and Medicine
Citation: Social Science and Medicine, 2008; 67: 1826-1836.
Abstract: People with primary bone cancer typically are young (usual age-at-onset 16–35 years old) and undergo arduous treatments. The current standard of care (tumour resection and limb reconstruction with or without chemotherapy) results in survival rates in excess of 60%, but also results in significant disability at a time when patients are choosing career paths, establishing their independence and embarking on new roles. To date, the nature of the relationship between experiences of osteosarcoma illness and experiences of vocation has remained unclear. This study sought to examine this relationship using qualitative narrative methodology. In-depth audiotaped interviews were conducted with 14 osteosarcoma survivors (8 men, 6 women) who were being treated at Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Canada. Interview transcripts were analyzed for story typology and thematic content via constant comparison. Respondents reported engaging in three types of ‘work’: ‘illness work’, ‘identity work’ and ‘vocational work’. Osteosarcoma illness represented a crisis for respondents, one which necessitated considerable illness work. Illness work was portrayed as allconsuming, whereby respondents were forced to stop vocational work for considerable periods. The illness crisis also precipitated ‘identity work’. Respondents recounted a transformative process, of ‘becoming other’ to whom they had been prior to illness. As a result, respondents told of re-entering the vocational sphere with a different sense of themselves from when they left it. When patients return for surgical follow up, clinicians routinely ask, ‘‘So, are you back to work yet?’’ expecting simple ‘yes/no’ answers. This study suggests that the answer is instead highly complex, and that patients could be seen as having been ‘working’ all along. This study offers a re-conceptualization of ‘work’ and ‘return to work’ in the context of osteosarcoma, with implications for clinical and return-to-work practices.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/29709
Appears in Collections:UofT Faculty publications

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