Researchers reflect from the cancer precipice

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This paper presents the reflections of two researchers employed at a cancer research unit. We reflect often together about the difficult emotional issues involved in working with cancer patients. To formalize these conversations we audiotaped and transcribed four dialogue sessions during which we asked ourselves the following questions: What are we learning about ourselves as we become immersed in this work? How do we negotiate our positions as both social scientists and as individuals who empathize with research participants about emotional/existential issues? This paper will explore our responses and reflections about some of our emotional connections to the women with whom we work, as well as our limitations and points of disconnect. We conclude that researchers are not dispassionate observers of others' experiences and could benefit from working in an atmosphere where reflecting and processing painful emotions with colleagues or through writing is fostered and valued.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre, Canada

Publication date: May 1, 2005

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