Posttraumatic Growth as Experienced by Childhood Cancer Survivors and Their Families: A Narrative Synthesis of Qualitative and Quantitative Research

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Abstract

Confronting with a life-threatening illness may serve as an opportunity for self-renewal and spiritual and personal growth. Posttraumatic growth refers to the experience of positive change resulting from the struggle and/or cognitive engagement with the existential challenges of life events. The more stressful a life situation is, the more potential it provides for personal growth. This article is a report of a narrative synthesis of empirical research reporting the positive effects of cancer perceived by the childhood cancer survivors and their families. A total of 35 studies included 20 quantitative, 12 qualitative, and 3 mixed studies (involving 2087 childhood cancer survivors, 1115 parents, and 159 healthy siblings). They were published between 1975 and 2010 and conducted in 9 countries. Five themes were identified: (1) meaning-making, (2) appreciation of life, (3) self-awareness, (4) closeness and family togetherness, and (5) a desire to pay back society. The findings suggest that illness becomes our best teacher to get to know ourselves at a deeper level and the world in a new dimension with new meaning. Working through an illness brings out our best, teaching us what life is all about.

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