Surviving Oncology: Living With Cancer in the Wake of Integrative Care
Atkinson-Graham, Melissa Rose
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This dissertation analyzes the emerging medical field of integrative oncology, attending to how this approach to cancer treatment unsettles and reconfigures existing biomedical ideas about bodies and cancer. Informed by twelve months of multi-sited ethnographic study conducted in the state of California, it examines the attempts made by integrative practitioners to provide whole patient care by incorporating complementary medicines such as Ayurveda and Chinese medicine into conventional oncology. I suggest that this approach enacts a kind of sensitivity for how cancer is lived as a disease conditioned by emotional, psychological, social, and environmental factors, requiring treatments attentive to these dimensions. Throughout this study I grapple with the intentions of integrative oncologists and the realities of the political economy of medicine and insurance in the United States that leaves integrative care out of the reach of most people, producing a situation where many are strained to imagine different ways of surviving oncology. At the core of this project is a concern for what it means and what it takes to live well with cancer in biomedicine.