Blogging to Let Go

Illness Blogging, Mothering and Terminal Cancer

  • Astrid Joutseno
Keywords: life writing, illness writing, digital life writing, counter-narrative, maternal illness, autothanatography


Illness memoirs gained popularity in the last decades of the 20th century. From the early 21st century, illness narratives proliferate online. This article examines illness life writing and near-death narratives by mothers living with stage IV cancer. I read two blogs, Suspicious Country by Nina Riggs and Julie Yip-Williams: My Cancer Fighting Journey by Julie Yip-Williams, and their published memoirs. I draw from life writing studies, motherhood studies, queer death studies, and narrative medicine, analyzing the overlap of mothering and illness in the contexts of life writing and medicine. Working with Eve Sedgwick’s reparative practice, I suggest that while illness, dying, and mothering appear incompatible at first, narrating from this position holds the possibility of sustenance and the potential for redefining how stories of ill and dying mothers are told. The blogs and memoirs are counter-narratives to the healing imperatives and closure demanded by the normative cancer narrative. They flesh out an approach to living with illness and dying, while writing about it. The article illustrates how illness blogging constructs an entangled story of grief, loss, and joy which becomes an instrument in living with the acute awareness of dying.

Author Biography

Astrid Joutseno

Astrid Joutseno is a doctoral student in the Gender, Culture and Society Program of University of Helsinki. Her PhD research is about mothering as a digital phenomenon. Joutseno defends her dissertation in 2021. She is also an established songwriter by the name of Astrid Swan. She won the Teosto Award for songwriting in 2018 and was shortlisted for the Nordic Music Prize the same year for her album From the Bed and Beyond. She published a memoir, Viimeinen kirjani in 2019.