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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Moving on : the post-treatment experience of women and families with breast cancer Emery, Christine Ann

Abstract

The initial period of time after treatment for cancer ends has been described as one of ambivalence and limbo (Halvorson-Boyd & Hunter, 1995; Hurt, McQuellon and Barrett, 1994) - yet few researchers have specifically studied the immediate post-treatment period, particularly from a family perspective. The purpose of this study was to explore and describe what life is like for women and their families in the first six months following completion of adjuvant treatment for breast cancer. Interpretive description was the qualitative method chosen for the study. In-depth interviews were conducted with eleven family dyads (the woman diagnosed with breast cancer and a family member of her choosing) who were between one and six months posttreatment. The data was analyzed using an inductive approach. The initial post-treatment period was revealed as a time of transition when families move past the cancer into normal life - a new normal that must take into account the cancer experience. "Moving On" was identified as an appropriate overall descriptor of the experience. Three subthemes - making sense of the experience, managing the threat of recurrence, and rejoining the world of normal - describe the concerns of the women and families and their strategies for managing the post-treatment experience. Six families had a different and more challenging experience post-treatment than the other five families. A variety of factors related to family, treatment, and interactions with health care providers that appeared to contribute to the variations in Moving On are also discussed. By shedding light on how the first six months following treatment for breast cancer is manifested in family life, this study has implications for health care professionals working with women with breast cancer and their families.

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