AuthorGregory, David Michael.
Cancer pain -- Psychological aspects.
Cancer -- Psychological aspects.
Cancer -- Nursing.
Committee ChairKay, Margarita
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractSuffering is a fundamental experience of the human condition. Whereas the arts and humanities have struggled to make sense of this condition, no concerted effort has taken place in nursing. Suffering is painfully absent within the cancer nursing research literature, a place where suffering should be conspicuous. The purpose of this study was to explore suffering inherent in the cancer experience. The concurrent use of Travelbee's Human-To-Human Relationship Model and narrative theory provided the conceptual underpinning for this prospective ethnography. Narratives of suffering were explored among seven patients diagnosed with cancer (breast, n = 4; brain; malignant melanoma; and ovarian cancer). Five women and two men were interviewed weekly (N = 89 interviews) for a period of up to five months. Participant observation supplemented the interview data. Seven richly textured narratives revealed the suffering endured in the living-of-cancer. The narratives also detailed the informant as person, the cancer trajectory, and explanatory models of cancer causation. A second level analysis of the narratives provided an intra-group comparison of suffering. "Cascade of losses" was the overarching theme. The undermining of personhood, and a loss of faith and trust in the medical system characterized this cascade of losses. Losses were further encountered: the dismissal of symptoms presented to physicians, the failure of treatment as cure, the death of other cancer patients, and the false reassurance that "cancer can be beaten". The remaining themes were "cancer as torture" and "the work of suffering--the beauty of cancer". The findings of this study suggest that nurses may not be capable of alleviating patient suffering. Patients' lives intersect at the suffering experience; their suffering is shaped by the past, present, and future. Nurses may influence these intersections of suffering to some extent, however, it is the individual who ultimately determines the living and outcome (if any) of their suffering. In the lives of the informants, it was the love of spouses and children, faith and trust in God, and satisfaction with life's accomplishments which permitted the endurance of suffering. Competent, comfort-care provided by compassionate nurses is needed by patients who suffer with cancer.