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Cancer Nurs. 2005 Jan-Feb;28(1):8-15.

A different way of being: adolescents' experiences with cancer.

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Child Health and Illness, Faculty of Nursing, Helen Glass Centre for Nursing, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2.


Adolescents with cancer face many challenges that may impact negatively their psychological well-being. In evaluating the psychosocial functioning of adolescents with cancer, research suggests that an altered self-image may emerge in those who have difficulty adjusting. However, little is known about adolescents' perceptions of how cancer affects their sense of self. Part of a larger study, this article addresses findings specific to understanding the impact that cancer and its symptoms had on adolescents' sense of self. To help discover meaningful interpretations of their experiences, a longitudinal, qualitative study was conducted. Data collection methods included open-ended, individual and focus group interviews and participant observation. The constant comparative method of data analysis yielded theoretical categories that were supported by the adolescents' narratives. Findings revealed that adolescents experienced changes in their lived bodies because of the symptoms and this, in turn, impacted their sense of self and way of being in the world. Six ways of being in the world were identified: life as a klutz; life as a prisoner; life as an invalid; life as an alien; life as a zombie; and life as a kid. In helping adolescents deal with the changes, it was important to family and friends to respond to them like they were the same person, but also to treat them special at times. Although adolescents spoke to the significance that cancer had on their lives, they described themselves as "still being pretty much the same person."

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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