To date, research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by cancer patients has tended to provide a “snapshot” of experience, with little attention given to the evolution of experience over time. Drawing on data from solicited diaries, this article examines individual cancer patients’ temporal experiences of CAM. Our findings suggest that experiences of CAM are variable over time and space, and furthermore, that the everyday act of “doing CAM” is considerably more problematic than is often reported in face-to-face interview or survey studies. This is explored in relation to the tension between the perceived need for restrictive self-discipline alongside a sense of the emancipatory potential of CAM; the role of CAM therapists in reconceptualizing disease; and the complex interplay between CAM-derived notions of self-healing and acceptance of individual mortality. We argue that an emphasis on the temporality of cancer patients’ CAM engagement is necessary to access a more nuanced understanding of the lived experiences of cancer patients.
Qualitative Health Research Vol. 18, Issue 12, p. 1650-1661