From a Death Sentence to a Disrupted Life: Palestinian Women’s Experiences and Coping With Breast Cancer

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Abstract

This study explores women’s experiences of breast cancer in the occupied Palestinian territory. We use an inductive qualitative design with a thematic analytical approach for conducting and analyzing 35 semi-structured interviews with breast cancer patients. The interviews focused on diagnosis, experiences and coping with breast cancer, social support and care needs, and the impact of illness on their families and social relationships. Three themes emerged: (a) the transition from initial shock to the daily struggles with disruptions caused by illness, (b) the role of social support in helping women cope with the burden of disease, and the importance of (c) faith and reliance on God (tawakkul). In the Palestinian context, women’s narratives highlighted the disruptive nature of breast cancer. Our findings underline the importance of social support provided by extended family members. Finally, faith is an important overarching theme that influences how women make sense of and cope with breast cancer.

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