Published: April 30, 2021

Plage, S., & Kirby, E. (2021). Reconfiguring time: Optimisation and authenticity in accounts of people surviving with advanced cancer. Health Sociology Review0(0), 1–16.


Stefanie Plage and Emma Kirby.


Increasingly, people live longer with advanced cancer, despite having no prospect of full recovery. Ongoing survival is owed to early detection and effective disease management, yet experienced as highly precarious. In this article we explore how cancer chronicity brings into effect a pre-occupation with time, what time is to people with advanced cancer, and what socio-cultural norms inflect everyday practices. We analyse 20 interviews conducted in Queensland, Australia with 11 participants with advanced cancer, to trace the intersections of what time means, what people do with time, and what time feels like. Drawing on scholarship on the moralities around ill health, we discuss how awareness of time emerges in cancer chronicity and raises moral questions on how to live well. Here, imperatives of optimisation (urging people with advanced cancer to make the most of limited time) intersect with imperatives of authenticity (marked by emphasis on how to live one’s own best life). These dynamics reveal expressions of living with advanced cancer in morally viable ways. Such ontological processes have implications for the lived experience of people with advanced cancer, their families and oncological care.