Phenomenologic study: Inner strength in women with breast cancer

Roux, Gayle M.
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Significance. This phenomenologic study generated descriptions of inner strength in women with the diagnoses of breast cancer. These descriptions will help nurses devise effective strategies to assist women coping with the demands of living a healthy lifestyle along with the uncertainty of their diagnoses. Breast cancer, as a disease, is widely studied. However, little is known about the development of inner strength and the woman's experiences that includes her conscious reactions to living with breast cancer as part of her health.

Theoretical touchstone. Newman's (1986) existing theory of health as expanding consciousness served as a theoretical touchstone for the findings. Newman's theory was particularly useful because it conceptualizes breast cancer as a meaningful part of the health of these women.

Methodology. Qualitative research using a postmodern feminist phenomenological approach was utilized for this study. Data were generated using unstructured interviews. Colaizzi's (1978) method of data analysis was used in the study to analyze the audiotapes and written transcripts. A review of scholarly and fictional literature was done after the data analysis. The criteria of rigor commonly associated with scientific inquiry was performed according to Sandelowski's (1986) method for achieving auditability and credibility.

Participants. The 18 participants ranged in age from 35 to 72, with a mean age of 52. The time range since diagnosis of breast cancer was 6 months to 20 years. The participants had varied treatment procedures, including lumpectomy, mastectomy and bone marrow transplant.

Findings. Based on a qualitative analysis, four themes emerged related to describing the participant's experience of inner strength in living with breast cancer. All of the participants described a feeling process of knowing and accepting they had breast cancer: Coming to Know. This seemed to lay the foundation for them to begin developing the strength needed to live a full and positive life. The participants made statements about their personality characteristics and the manner in which they dealt with things that personified a feisty, positive, playful and reflective self: Strength Within of She Who Knows. Relatedness to others, self and God encompassed the third theme: Connection of She Who Knows. Having supportive family and friends, giving others a chance to show caring, and feeling God's presence were mentioned by the participants. The fourth theme that emerged, Movement of She Who Knows, personified the inner strength moving, exchanging, harmonizing, and facilitating desired change.

Nursing, Women, Breast cancer, Health and environmental sciences, coping