UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Unsolicited narratives from cancer survivors : a longitudinal, qualitative analysis Marshall, Candace


Being diagnosed with the ‘C’ word, also known as cancer, provokes a wide variety of psychological reactions for those newly diagnosed with the disease. The cannon of literature on how individuals cope and adjust to a cancer is diverse and suggests that how one copes and adjusts is influenced by such variables as age, gender, social support, cancer severity and cancer type. This qualitative study is a secondary analysis of unsolicited narratives written in the margins of survey questionnaires in a longitudinal study of how cancer patients emotionally adjust to a cancer diagnosis. The purpose of this study was to understand how the unsolicited narratives of 86 cancer patients might contribute to the broader context of the theory-laden scope of health and counselling research. Purposely, this research study pursued two lines of investigation: 1) the ambiguity of test items and 2) how standardized measures do not fully capture personal experience. Qualitative description was used to analyze the unsolicited narratives. Conventional thematic analysis was used to code the data that was then categorized into major themes that arose from the narratives. The results from the narratives added by 86 of the original 421 (20.4%) participants resulted in identifying six main sub-themes, namely: coping and adjustment to cancer, the effects of cancer, employment and RTW, other life events, social support and diagnosis and treatment. Themes arising from the narratives are commonly found within the cannon of cancer research and provide further supporting evidence about those issues most important to newly diagnosed cancer patients.

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