Happy Endings

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This study examines the endings of one hundred cancer patient survivor narratives featured on the websites of three leading US teaching hospitals as the “final words,” signifying closure and shaping readers’ lasting impression of the experiences described. These narratives, posted between 2019 and 2021, appear as blog posts included as part of the corresponding hospitals’ websites promotional material. The one hundred cancer survivor story endings, positioned at the point of resolution within the story arc, are examined for their function within the narrative structure. In addition, endings are analyzed as rhetorical devices, intended to shape the readers’ perception of events by suggesting the conflict (cancer) is no longer a significant threat to the story’s subject (cancer patient). Thus, the central research question is: How do cancer survivor story endings serve to frame the patient’s experience with cancer as the narrative’s complicating event that, within the traditional storytelling formula employed, requires resolution? This analysis also includes implications for ethical practices in creating promotional content by teaching hospitals that advocate a scientific, evidentiary based approach to cancer treatment. Initial findings reveal that of the one hundred cancer survivor narrative endings, ninety-three are direct quotes—known, in journalistic terms as “kicker quotes”—while the remaining are non-quote summations. Therefore, attention is given to the significance of ending narrative testimonials with quotes, the majority of which are in the featured patient’s voice. Endings are examined using qualitative textual analysis, documenting common themes and tropes, in addition to using grounded theory as the basis for conducting emergent qualitative research.