The family cancer experience


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Abstract

Family-centered care is a common goal of oncological nursing. However, the dearth of family-focused research upon which to anchor such care is widely acknowledged. Much of our understanding of the family cancer experience is predicated upon professionally derived constructs such as crisis or adaptation theory. The everyday life of the cancer family from the perspective of those involved is a relatively untapped information resource.In this preliminary study, the researcher employed phenomenological theory and qualitative methods to generate accounts reflective of the perspective of families living with cancer in their midst. Eight families participated in repeated intensive interviews. Field notes and verbatim transcripts of these interviews were analyzed and interpreted.It was found that these families focused on the normalcy in their everyday lives despite major changes associated with having cancer. They explained their capacity to retain normalcy as a product of strategic choices which had enabled them to manage medical care, create support networks, structure day-to-day routines, and generate hope. Families argued the success of dramatically discrepant strategies toward accomplishing similar results. The salient factor appeared not to be the choice itself, but the extent to which it conformed to the family's self-definition and characteristic attitude toward significant life events. These preliminary findings serve to challenge some of our existing assumptions about effective and ineffective coping when families are confronted with a cancer experience.

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