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Cancer Nurs. 2004 May-Jun;27(3):237-43.

Meanings of the phenomenon of fatigue as narrated by 4 patients with cancer in palliative care.

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Hemsjukvården-VIOOL, Skellefteå Hospital, Skellefteå, Sweden.


The disabling experience of fatigue suffered in connection with incurable cancer is an area within nursing that has generated only limited research interest. The need for a change in focus is presented in the literature: from treating the symptom itself to facilitating living with the fatigue caused by a life-threatening disease. This implies that helping to alleviate fatigue must start from the patients' own understanding and interpretation of this experience. Our study attempts to achieve this understanding through illuminating the meanings of fatigue as experienced by 4 patients with cancer in palliative care. The research interviews were analyzed using a phenomenological-hermeneutic approach inspired by the philosophy of Ricoeur. Our findings indicate a world in which one meaning of fatigue connected with incurable cancer is a lived bodily experience of approaching death. Comprehending fatigue in this way allows us to understand the paradoxes we found in the text, such as struggling in vain against fatigue, and hoping to overcome fatigue but expecting failure. The paradoxes represent a struggle between body and mind, between bodily experiences and intellectual understanding, and have important implications for how we communicate with patients about fatigue.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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