"We're Going to be Survivors": Couples' Identity Challenges During and After Cancer Treatment

Laura E. Miller, John P. Caughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research has demonstrated identity challenges that people with cancer experience. Most of this research focuses solely on patients' experiences of identity during illness. The current study is distinct from the extant literature in two ways. First, it examines identity negotiations both during and after treatment. Cancer survivorship after successful treatment is a unique context in which to study identity because cancer is out of the body, yet identity challenges may persist and change for survivors and partners. Second, whereas most research on cancer and identity has focused on patients (and some has examined partners), the current study examines participants' sense of joint couple identity. Taking a rhetorical/normative approach to understanding couples' identity renegotiation, the current study included one-on-one interviews with 35 cancer survivors and 25 partners. The data show that patients and partners experience couple identity challenges throughout treatment and survivorship. These findings have implications for how we conceptualize identity and illness within couples and for understanding the identity negotiations between spouses during cancer treatment and survivorship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-82
Number of pages20
JournalCommunication Monographs
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Cancer Survivorship
  • Couple Identity
  • Couples
  • Illness Identities
  • Normative Approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics


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