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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring the lived experience of visual creative expression for young adult cancer survivors Green, Amy Rose


The purpose of this research was to contribute experiential understanding of the lived experience of creative expression (both individually and/or within a therapeutic setting) in the particular context of young adult cancer survivors. It utilized van Manen’s (1990) hermeneutic phenomenological approach to answer the following question: “What is the lived experience and lived meaning of visual creative expression for young adult cancer survivors?” Seven young adults (diagnosed with cancer between ages 18 to 35) were engaged in two conversations (one main interview and one check-in interview) about their creative expression experiences. Participants were also invited to reflect on their insights, ideas, and experiences of creative expression through emails to the researcher. A thematic reflection and guided existential reflection (based on the four lifeworlds of lived body, lived time, lived space, and lived relation) were utilized to further understand, organize, and reveal the ways the participants experienced the phenomenon of creative expression. In line with van Manen (1990), data analysis was conducted through the writing and re-writing of findings in a reflective and vocative manner. Seven themes were uncovered that could be organized into the four lifeworlds: lived time involved being in the flow; lived body involved allowing the body to express itself and renegotiating control; lived space involved being impacted by a permanent change to the environment; and, finally, lived relation involved being seen, respect for the art as other, and giving back. The seven themes within these four life worlds intertwined to embody two additional themes: increased self-understanding and healing the mind and body. As the first study to explore the lived experience of visual creative expression specifically for young adult cancer survivors, this research begins to fill a large gap in the literature. Findings suggest that visual creative expression can be a meaningful and impactful experience for young adult cancer survivors, and that this experience espouses both similarities and differences from experiences of creative expression for older adults that have been previously described in the literature. Specific recommendations are made for future research, in addition to implications for practitioners working with the young adult cancer survivor population.

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