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Int J Nurs Stud. 1999 Jun;36(3):191-201.

Transacting self-preservation: a grounded theory of the spiritual dimensions of people with terminal cancer.

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RMIT-Nursing and Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre, Melbourne, Australia.


This study describes the spiritual meanings people with terminal cancer give to their everyday life-experiences. Transcriptions from semi-structured, in-depth interviews of 19 adults who had a diagnosis of cancer and who were living in Queensland and New South Wales, Australia, were analysed using the constant comparative approach of grounded theory. The study found that people with terminal cancer develop a spiritual perspective that strengthens their approaches to life and death. Their discovery of spiritual meaning is enacted through a process of transacting self-preservation. This process incorporates three phases, taking it all in, getting on with things and putting it all together. As people with terminal cancer move through these phases they transact self-preservation by discovering deeper levels of understanding self. This discovery of self incorporates a higher level of spiritual growth, spiritual perspective, spiritual awareness and spiritual experiences. The study indicates that nurses can help people with terminal cancer develop coping strategies that allow them to engage in the process of transacting self-preservation. This study also shows that there needs to be more emphasis on spirituality, spiritual issues and the role of spiritual caring in nursing curricula and practice.

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