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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Surviving within the perimeter : how palliative care patients make meaning of living while dying of terminal cancer Bodell, Kathleen V.


The purpose of this study was to discover how palliative cancer patients experience living while they are dying. A naturalistic approach, interpretive description, was used to identify and interpret themes. Data collection consisted of unstructured interviews with 6 patients with a prognosis of less than 6 months. Data was transcribed and analyzed systematically. Emerging findings were validated with participants and revealed 3 major themes: coping with a terminal illness, making sense of the situation, and surviving within the perimeter. Participants utilized a unique combination of coping styles and resources. Some reflected on the experience, while others ignored the psychological and spiritual aspects of the situation. All participants had a matter-of-fact acceptance that the situation could not be changed. They acknowledged their inevitable death but did not dwell on it. They maintained hope by being open to positive outcomes and using treatments that may make them feel better. Meaning related to doing what must be done in a bad situation while never letting go of the hope that the situation could improve. The participants focused mainly on staying alive (eating to maintain weight and gain strength) and accomplishing physical activities (by working around fatigue and other symptoms). Meaning was attached to physical accomplishments. Participants described themselves as surviving within a smaller perimeter of life.

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