Exploring important relationships in the search for meaning in people living with cancer: part 1
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Exploring important relationships in the search for meaning in people living with cancer: part 1

Barry Quinn , Senior Lecturer, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Why you should read this article:
  • To be aware of the importance of exploring the personal stories of people living with cancer beyond the medical focus on disease

  • To acknowledge that the experience of illness may give people an insight into the intrinsic value and fragility of life

  • To recognise the importance of relationships in the search to make sense of life when living with cancer

This is the first of two articles presenting findings from a wider study that aimed to explore and better understand the personal story of cancer beyond the label of ‘patient’ and the healthcare context.

This article focuses on the importance of relationships with other people with cancer, family members and the healthcare team in the search to make sense of life. Part 2 focuses on the importance of relationships with people who have died, with God or a higher being, and the self in the search to make sense of life. Using an interpretative phenomenological approach, data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with 15 people living with cancer. It was found that a core aspect of each participant’s sense-making process was their ability to relate to others, including the ‘web of relationships’ that existed between the participants and other people with cancer. Each participant spoke about the importance of family relationships and support, as well as their concern for their family members.

The participants also described the common bond that exists between people; one that moves beyond the roles and labels of patient, nurse and doctor. Understanding the importance of relationships in the search to make sense of life recognises the sometimes-overlooked personal stories behind a diagnosis of cancer. These findings offer practical insights that aim to enhance nurses’ understanding of the personal meaning of illness.

Cancer Nursing Practice. doi: 10.7748/cnp.2020.e1721

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software

Correspondence

barry.quinn@qub.ac.uk

Conflict of interest

None declared

Quinn B (2020) Exploring important relationships in the search for meaning in people living with cancer: part 1. Cancer Nursing Practice. doi: 10.7748/cnp.2020.e1721

Published online: 13 August 2020

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