Holding Multiple Identities: a Personal Narrative of Young Onset Colorectal Cancer

James Bonnamy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review


This is a personal narrative of my experience as a young man diagnosed with colorectal cancer. It is an exploration of the tension between multiple identities, including a clinical nurse specialist, academic and oncology patient. Young patients with colorectal cancer face particular challenges. They are often diagnosed with more advanced and poorly differentiated cancers. Research around young onset colorectal cancer is controversial, with some studies suggesting poorer survival. Although there is research in this area, there are few qualitative accounts that describe raw, honest and diverse narratives of colorectal cancer experiences, especially in young people. Writing personal narratives is a powerful experience, it has allowed me to tell my story to the world and given me time to reflect and make sense of my new reality. Although this journey has forced me to let go of my old identity, and embrace a new and challenging existence, the truth is that being diagnosed with cancer stinks. Writing this narrative is an uncomfortable process, punctuated with truths that are difficult to speak. However, sharing my story has provided a platform for self-exploration, a safe space to narrate my experience with cancer in the hope that it helps other clinicians, researchers and patients.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Cancer Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 8 Apr 2020


  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Personal narrative
  • Survivor
  • Young onset

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