The experience of viewing self in the mirror after a mastectomy
The purpose of this study was to talk with women who have had a mastectomy in order to discern the experience of viewing self in a mirror post-operatively. More specifically, the study sought to describe the experience from both a structural and a phenomenological perspective. The question guiding the study was: What is the experience of viewing self in the mirror after a mastectomy?
Twelve women, who had a mastectomy 3–12 months prior to participation in the study, discussed their experiences of viewing self in mirror in audio-taped conversational interviews. A structural analysis was performed on each transcript, followed by a phenomenological interpretation. A second interview was held with two women to validate the findings.
In the structural analysis, actants, actions, and opposing ideas in the text were uncovered. This analysis revealed the world of the participants. Key actants were: my body, my thoughts, and others in my world. These actants were further broken down into opposing actions: viewing and not viewing my body in a minor; my energizing and dispiriting thoughts, and supportive and non-supportive others. The phenomenological interpretation revealed the experience of viewing self in the mirror after a mastectomy from the perspective of a woman looking in a mirror. Four key themes were uncovered: I am, I decide, I see, and I consent. The theme I see was further broken down into seeing with the mind's eye, seeing with the eyes, and seeing the meaning. Seeing the meaning is a complex moment of both understanding and explanation.
Implications for nursing practice, education, and research were considered with respect to the results. Understanding this experience of viewing self in the mirror leads to sensitive nursing interventions including: discussion of the impact of the mirror experience before and after surgery; and offering a mirror when changing the dressing and teaching ongoing site and drain care. There is a need to develop educational materials for nurses and patients. This research project simply places a footprint on a vast, largely unexplored, field of nursing, with several opportunities for future research.