Meeting Reality: Young Adult Cancer Survivors’ Experiences of Reentering Everyday Life After Cancer Treatment

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Abstract

Background:

Cancer in young adults is rare, but the intensity of cancer treatment increases the risk of physical and psychosocial impacts on patients’ entire lives. Young adult survivors are underrepresented in research, and knowledge of cancer survivors in this age group is scarce, especially knowledge of transition from cancer treatment to everyday life.

Objective:

The objective of this study was to explore how young adult cancer survivors experience reentering everyday life after cancer treatment.

Methods:

A qualitative, phenomenological approach was used and included 20 young adult survivors (aged 24–35 years) with different cancer diagnoses allocated to a rehabilitation program. Semistructured interviews were conducted, and the transcripts were analyzed qualitatively using Systematic Text Condensation method.

Results:

“Meeting reality” was identified as a bridging theme, explained by 4 main themes important to the informants: (1) lack of preparation, (2) late effects, (3) lack of understanding, and (4) being neither sick nor healthy.

Conclusions:

Informants were unprepared for reentering everyday life after cancer treatment and experienced a mismatch of their expectations with reality, particularly in the holistic impact of late effects. Moreover, reentering everyday life was characterized by a lack of understanding from their network and even healthcare providers who conducted follow-ups. The informants experienced reentering everyday life as being much harder than expected, and they felt isolated as well as neither sick nor healthy.

Implications for Practice:

The results suggest a major shortcoming in both preparation for survivorship, multidisciplinary follow-ups, and knowledge. A shift to a more holistic perspective in survivorship care is suggested.

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