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Cancer Nurs. 2006 Sep-Oct;29(5):406-14.

Siblings' experiences with childhood cancer: a different way of being in the family.

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


Childhood cancer and its treatment result in many challenges that impact the entire family. For siblings of children with cancer, the challenges can be particularly stressful as they often undergo tremendous change in their lives. Although there is a sound and growing body of knowledge on how siblings experience childhood cancer, there is still much to be learned. Part of a larger qualitative study aimed at detailing childhood cancer experience and its symptom trajectory from the perspective of parents, ill children, and siblings, this study aims to describe findings specific to 30 siblings who participated in the study. Siblings took part in individual interviews, focus group interviews, and participant observation. The constant comparative method of data analysis yielded the theoretical category of "ways of being in the world," which referred to the different ways that cancer impacted on the lives of children with cancer and their families. For the siblings, cancer was experienced as a different way of being within their family and involved siblings undergoing a loss of a family way of life and a loss of self within the family. Three themes related to a different way of being in the family were identified: committing to keeping my family together, being present, and enduring sadness. The findings reinforce that more needs to be done in helping healthy siblings through childhood cancer.

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