Cancer Survivorship, Identity and Meaning-Making
Masson, Sarah Jane
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
To enable publication in a peer reviewed journal
Purpose: Many lives are affected by cancer. The number of people in England who have had a diagnosis of cancer exceeds one million. Previous research shows that one third of patients have unmet needs post-discharge from cancer treatment, including psychological issues such as negative impacts on self-identity and a lack of meaning in life. Studies have identified identity as an important factor in meaning making, but evidence regarding cancer’s impact on identity is limited to specific cancer sites and specific identity roles. Little is known about cancer’s general impact on global identity or how threats to identity relate to meaning making. The aim of this study was to understand patients’ experiences of cancer’s impact on their identity and what sense they made of these experiences. Methods: Twelve participants in the post-treatment phase of cancer shared their experiences in individual semi-structured interviews. Key themes regarding identity and meaning making in the post-treatment phase were identified using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Results and Conclusions: Four key themes in the participants’ experiences were identified. These were 1) disrupted identity roles, 2) highlights what is important, 3) focused on priorities, and 4) reducing awareness of loss and uncertainty. Relevant literature and implications for future research and clinical practice are discussed.
Doctorate in Clinical Psychology