Qualitative researchers are trained to acknowledge, reflect on, and understand our experiences and bias which form the context in which we will conduct research and inform our analyses. In this auto ethnographic account I describe how my personal experience with breast cancer has destabilized my professional life and my identity. Using the analogy of a circus, the story elements weave back and forth highlighting the three competing spheres of academia: as a researcher, a teacher, and for me, a feminist. The issues of deciding how to portray my story in each of those venues, and choosing how much to reveal or conceal to students and in publications, are deeply intertwined with the qualitative concepts of integrity and authenticity. The ability to comprehend an illness experience and the bias it creates is central to developing a post-cancer identity, a cohesive body of research, and an authentic teaching persona.
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