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© 2017 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. Adjuvant chemotherapy is given after surgery for early stage cancer. It aims to cure. Though potentially toxic, it has dramatically improved survival for some cancers. This paper offers an autoethnographic exploration of three kinds of strangeness that I encountered during a 12-week course of adjuvant chemotherapy for early breast cancer: The material strangeness of what was done to me; the lived-body strangeness of receiving chemotherapy (which makes people sick to make them well) and the existential strangeness of reconstructing my broken narrative. In a discussion, I consider four aspects of autoethnography of deep illness against which this account and its telling might be judged: ethnographic legitimacy (does it meet the standards of analytic social science?), autobiographical legitimacy (is it compelling as literature?), existential ethics (am I, the wounded storyteller, protected from harm?) and relational ethics (have I discharged my duties towards those implicated in the text and its interpretation?).

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





340 - 357