The Person Within the Mask: Mask-Wearing, Identity, and Communication

Douglas Kelley 1 *

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp. 111-130

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This autoethnographic exploration examines my seven-month experience wearing a mask after a stem cell transplant, October, 2019. The telling of my story includes the cancer-based context in which I began to wear a mask and a concentration on the interactions, behaviors, and happenings that occurred to me while mask-wearing. Although I make note of experiences during the COVID-19 crisis, most of the happenings from which I draw occurred pre-COVID. The focus of my reflections throughout the essay is given to identity de/reconstruction through the emotional experience that has in many ways defined my mask-wearing journey. Central ideas that are encountered throughout my story are victim/patient syndrome, isolation, dehumanization, disability bias, monitoring fatigue, sanctuary, and intimacy.

Keywords: Cancer, COVID, Dehumanization, Identity, Isolation, Masks.