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The intertwining of body, self and world: A phenomenological study of living with recently-diagnosed multiple sclerosis

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This paper describes the lifeworld of one individual, Ann, in an attempt to elucidate the existential impact of early stage multiple sclerosis. Drawing on Ann's own reflections captured in a relatively unstructured interview, I construct a narrative around her first year of living with the diagnosis. Then, existential-phenomenological analysis reveals how Ann's life - lived in and through a particular body and lifeworld context - is disrupted. The unity between her body and self can no longer be taken for granted. The existential possibilities inherent in her lived body are diminished and have to be renegotiated. Her sense of identity, project, relations with others and present/future plans are threatened. Ann's illness is encountered in the context of her life activities and relationships. This is the intertwining of body, self and world. To live with multiple sclerosis is to experience a global sense of disorder - a disorder which incorporates a changed relation with one's body, a transformation in the surrounding world, a threat to the self, and a change in one's relation to others.

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