Like a phoenix – on re-emergence and identity

I have commented previously on how I use different names in different contexts. Rebecca is my formal and professional name. I use Becky with close friends and within the breast cancer community. When attending conferences, I’ve been able to use the name as a signal. People that know me well or read my breast cancer blog will call me Becky, others will call me Rebecca (which is what is on my nametag). Note that although friends in the breast cancer community call me Becky, my healthcare team call me Rebecca – this is in part a safety issue, which I blog about here.

In September, I’ll be attending the QUB ePatients Conference – The medical, ethical and legal repercussions of blogging and micro-blogging experiences of illness and disease, Queen’s University Belfast. The conference has a very narrow focus, however, that focus aligns nicely with the new path my research is taking.

At the conference, I’ll be reporting on a survey that I did that looks very peripherally into the impact breast cancer blogs have on those who read them. I’ll be presenting the information as an auto-ethnographic narrative, in part because when it comes to breast cancer blogging I cannot be objective. The commentary from the surveys illucidate different stories (narratives) within my own lived experience. So my presentation will be in part my story, and in part a report on survey results. This is a whole different type of conference presentation, and I’m excited to be able to give it.

This presentation will challenge my identities. They will clash at this conference. I will attend as Rebecca J. Hogue unaffiliated scholar. I will present as Rebecca J. Hogue, but I will be presenting about my lived experience as BC Becky (stands for Breast Cancer Becky). I have not yet figured out how to be both Rebecca and Becky within the same space. I don’t know who that person is yet.

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a fellow survivor about profile pictures. About how the picture that was used before cancer isn’t a picture of the same person. This is very obvious when you consider hair. Looking at old pictures is a reminder of who I used to be. The hair is a signal that is triggered by old profile pictures. The new has not yet emerged. I’m only part way there. My hair is still stupid short because the first growth after chemo (chemo hair) is not normal hair. I don’t have a new professional profile pictures yet. I don’t know what I want that picture to be yet. I don’t know who the Rebecca J. Hogue + BC Becky person is yet. I’m still a pheonix, emerging from the fire anew. I’m ready to start the re-emergence process, but I’m not at the end of that path yet.

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