chapter  3
16 Pages

Narrative Turns Epic: Continuing Developments in Health Narrative Scholarship

ByBarbara F. Sharf, Lynn M. Harter, Jill Yamasaki, Paul Haidet

Cancer is an uninvited life guest, disrupting daily routines, straining relationships, and shifting one’s sense of self. Instead of forming bone on her growth plates, sixteen-year-old Caitlin Shoup grew a two by two inch tumor on the end of her left distal femur, biopsied and diagnosed as osteosarcoma in June, 2004. Within ten days, she began a triple drug chemotherapy regimen. While her classmates chose between co-curricular activities, Caitlin weighed the comparative benefi ts and risks of limb salvage surgery versus amputation. She completed most of her junior year in the oncology ward at Akron Children’s Hospital, and though she returned to Perry High to complete her senior year, starkly visible markers of her cancer remained. She continues to bear the twelve-inch scar between her thigh and calf with dignity. “I wear my scar with pride and am honest about it most times, unless people approach me rudely, in which case the scar is from a shark attack!” In addition to hair loss and permanent hearing damage, though, Caitlin lost patience for the melodramas of teenage life. “I have a low tolerance for B.S. and immaturity,” Caitlin shared. “… It’s amazing how few people actually appreciate their life and don’t want to waste it.”