To explore the various ways in which people experience their bodies, and the ways in which they succeed in getting used to (unwanted) bodily changes, we adhered to an interpretive phenomenological approach. This means that we especially focussed on how people make sense of their experiences.
For this, we mainly conducted qualitative research, based upon the stories that people who have to live with bodily changes after cancer treatment shared with us in in-depth interviews. For the VIDI-project on Bodily Integrity in Blemished Bodies, we conducted interviews with patients at the Maastricht University Medical Center and the Netherlands Cancer Institute (AvL) in Amsterdam. In one study we analyzed the stories of women that were shared in online blogs.
The VIDI-project was conducted within three target groups:
- breast cancer patients, directly after surgery
- patients undergoing breast reconstruction
- people who wear facial prostheses after head and neck cancer
Since we used a qualitative approach (and not a quantitative on statistics based approach), our research does not aim at providing generalizable knowledge. While analyzing the qualitative data we seeked to identify certain themes and patterns which referred to different ways patients endow meaning to their bodies. Examples of these include “the body at a distance”; “the body nearby”; “the body in action”; “the gazeable body”; “the sexual body”; “the observable face”; the perceiving face”; “the sensing face”.