When Cancer Calls…: Longitudinal Analysis and Sustained Cultural Impact

  • Wayne A. Beach
  • David M. Dozier
  • Kyle Gutzmer


Selected moments are analyzed from a corpus of 61 phone calls over a period of 13 months, the first natural history of family members talking through cancer from diagnosis through death of a loved one. Three alternative forms of interaction are examined: (1) the serial ordering of successive calls to different airline representatives; (2) tellings and retellings, across varying intervals of time and settings, regarding a loved one’s actions and health condition; and (3) cumulative practices employed by family members as resources maintaining a “state of readiness” for managing challenging circumstances (e.g., packing/unpacking bags). These courses of action transcend particular episodes, are situated in ongoing streams of interactional conduct, and have also been translated into a nationally disseminated educational program entitled When Cancer Calls….



This project was supported by the American Cancer Society (98-172-01), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (144235-01/02, W. Beach, PI).


  1. Beach, W. A. (2009). A natural history of family cancer: Interactional resources for managing illness. New York: Hampton Press.Google Scholar
  2. Beach, W. A. (2013). Patients’ efforts to justify wellness in a comprehensive cancer clinic. Health Communication, 28(6), 577–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beach, W. A., & Dozier, D. (2015). Fears, uncertainties, and hopes: Patient-initiated actions and doctors’ responses during oncology interviews. Journal of Health Communication, 20(11), 1243–1254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beach, W. A., & Glenn, P. (2011). Inviting gender. In S. Speer & E. Stokoe (Eds.), Gender and conversation (pp. 210–228). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beach, W., & Pricket, E. (2017). Laughter, humor, and cancer: Delicate moments and poignant interactional circumstances. Health Communication, 32(7), 791–802.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beach, W. A., Buller, M. K., Dozier, D., Buller, D., & Gutzmer, K. (2014a). Conversations about cancer (CAC): Assessing feasibility and audience impacts from viewing. The Cancer Play. Health Communication, 29(5), 462–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beach, W. A., Gutzmer, K., Dozier, D., Buller, M. K., & Buller, D. (2014b). Conversations about cancer (CAC): A global strategy for accessing naturally occurring family interactions. In D. K. Kim, A. Singhal, & G. Kreps (Eds.), Global health communication strategies in the 21st century: Design, implementation, and evaluation (pp. 101–117). New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  8. Beach, W. A., Gutzmer, K., & Dozier, D. (2015). Family conversations about in-home and hospice care. In E. Wittenberg-Lyles, B. Ferrell, J. Goldsmith, T. Smith, S. Ragan, M. Glajchen, & G. Handzo (Eds.), Textbook of palliative care communication (pp. 161–173). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Beach, W. A., Dozier, D. D., Buller, M. K., Gutzmer, K., Fluharty, L., Myers, V. H., & Buller, D. B. (2016). The Conversations about cancer (CAC) project-phase II: National findings from viewing When Cancer Calls… and implications for entertainment-education (E-E). Patient Education and Counseling, 99(3), 393–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bergman, J. (1993). Discreet indiscretions: The social organization of gossip. New York: Aldine.Google Scholar
  11. Bergman, J., & Linnell, P. (Eds.). (1998). Morality in discourse. Special issue of Research on Language and Social Interaction, 31(3–4), 279–472.Google Scholar
  12. Brouwer, C. E., & Wagner, J. (2004). Developmental issues in second language conversation. Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1(1), 29–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Charmaz, K. C. (1991). Good days, bad days: The self and chronic illness in time. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Drew, P., & Heritage, J. (Eds.). (1992). Talk at work: Interaction in institutional settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Drew, P., & Holt, E. (1988). Complainable matters: The use of idiomatic expressions in making social complaints. Social Problems, 35(4), 398–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Goodwin, C. (1981). Conversational organization: Interaction between speakers and hearers. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  17. Goodwin, M. (1990). He-said-she-said: Talk as social organization among black children. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gray, P. H., & Van Oosting, J. (1996). Performance in life and theatre. Heights: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  19. Green, M. C., Brock, T. C., & Kaufman, G. F. (2004). Understanding media enjoyment: The role of transportation into narrative worlds. Communication Theory, 14(4), 311–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Haakana, M. (2001). Laughter as a patient’s resource: Dealing with delicate aspects of medical interaction. Text-Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse, 21(1–2), 187–219.Google Scholar
  21. Heritage, J. (1984). Garfinkel and ethnomethodology. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  22. Heritage, J. (1998). Oh-prefaced responses to inquiry. Language in Society, 27(3), 291–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Heritage, J. (2002). Oh-prefaced responses to assessments: A method of modifying agreement/disagreement. In C. E. Ford, B. A. Fox, & S. A. Thompson (Eds.), The language of turn and sequence (pp. 196–224). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Holt, E., & Drew, P. (2005). Figurative pivots: The use of figurative expressions in pivotal topic transitions. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 38(1), 35–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hopper, R. (1993). Conversational dramatism: A symposium. Text and Performance Quarterly, 13(2), 181–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hopper, R., & Drummond, K. (1992). Accomplishing interpersonal relationship: The telephone openings of strangers and intimates. Western Journal of Communication, 56(3), 185–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jefferson, G. (1980a). The analysis of conversations in which “troubles” and “anxieties” are expressed. Final report for the (British) Social Science Research Council: Report nos. HR 4805/1–2. London.Google Scholar
  28. Jefferson, G. (1980b). On “trouble premonitory” response to inquiry. Sociological Inquiry, 50(3–4), 153–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jefferson, G. (1984a). On the organization of laughter in talk about troubles. In J. M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (Eds.), Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis (pp. 347–369). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Jefferson, G. (1984b). On stepwise transition from talk about a trouble to inappropriately next-positioned matters. In J. M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (Eds.), Structures of social action: Studies in conversational analysis (pp. 191–222). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Jefferson, G. (1988). On the sequential organization of troubles talk in ordinary conversation. Social Problems, 35(4), 418–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jefferson, G., Sacks, H., & Schegloff, E. A. (1987). On laughter in the pursuit of intimacy. In G. Button & J. R. E. Lee (Eds.), Talk and social organization. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  33. Lerner, G. H. (1992). Assisted storytelling: Deploying shared knowledge as a practical matter. Qualitative Sociology, 15(3), 247–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mandelbaum, J. (2013). Storytelling in conversation. In J. Sidnell & T. Stivers (Eds.), The handbook of conversation analysis (pp. 492–508). Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  35. Maynard, D. W. (2003). Good news, bad news: Conversational order in everyday talk and clinical settings. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  36. Maynard, D. W., & Schaeffer, N. C. (1997). Keeping the gate: Declinations of the request to participate in a telephone survey interview. Sociological Methods and Research, 26(1), 34–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Norrick, N. R. (1997). Twice-told tales: Collaborative narration of familiar stories. Language in Society, 26(2), 199–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Norrick, N. R. (1998). Retelling stories in spontaneous conversation. Discourse Processes, 25(1), 75–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Norrick, N. R. (2000). Conversational narrative: Storytelling in everyday talk. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Parsons, T. (1951). The social system. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  41. Pomerantz, A., & Mandelbaum, J. (2005). Conversation analytic approaches to the relevance and uses of relationship categories in interaction. In K. Fitch & R. E. Sanders (Eds.), Handbook of language and social interaction (pp. 149–174). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  42. Sacks, H. (1992). Lectures on conversation I-II. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  43. Sacks, H., Schegloff, E. A., & Jefferson, G. (1974). A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation. Language, 50(4), 696–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schegloff, E. A. (1979). Identification and recognition in telephone conversation openings. In G. Psathas (Ed.), Everyday language: Studies in ethnomethodology (pp. 23–78). New York: Irvington.Google Scholar
  45. Schegloff, E. A. (1980). Preliminaries to preliminaries: “Can I ask you a question?”. Sociological Inquiry, 50(3–4), 104–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Singal, A., & Rogers, E. M. (1999). Entertainment-education: A communication strategy for social change. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  47. Singal, A., & Rogers, E. M. (2002). A theoretical agenda for entertainment-education. Communication Theory, 12(2), 117–135.Google Scholar
  48. Slater, M. (2002). Entertainment education and the persuasive impact of narratives. In M. C. Green, J. J. Strange, & T. C. Brock (Eds.), Narrative impact: Social and cognitive foundations (pp. 157–181). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  49. Slater, M. D., & Rounder, D. (2002). Entertainment-education and elaboration likelihood: Understanding the processing of narrative persuasion. Communication Theory, 12(2), 173–191.Google Scholar
  50. Stucky, N. (1993). Toward an aesthetics of natural performance. Text and Performance Quarterly, 13(2), 168–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stucky, N. (1998). Unnatural acts: Performing natural conversation. Literature in Performance, 8(2), 28–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stucky, N., & Glenn, P. (1993). Invoking empirical muse: Conversation, performance, and pedagogy. Text and Performance Quarterly, 13(2), 192–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Whalen, M., & Zimmerman, D. H. (1987). Sequential and institutional contexts in calls for help. Social Psychological Quarterly, 50(2), 172–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Whalen, J., & Zimmerman, D. H. (1998). Observations on the display and management of emotion in naturally occurring activities: The case of “hysteria” in calls to 9-1-1. Social Psychology Quarterly, 61(2), 141–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Whalen, J., Zimmerman, D. H., & Whalen, M. R. (1988). When words fail: A single case analysis. Social Problems, 35(4), 335–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wayne A. Beach
    • 1
  • David M. Dozier
    • 2
  • Kyle Gutzmer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of California-San DiegoSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.San Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

Personalised recommendations