Making sense of pain and loss: searching for meaning while living with cancer
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Making sense of pain and loss: searching for meaning while living with cancer

Barry Quinn Macmillan director of nursing cancer/senior lecturer, Barts Health NHS Trust, Corporate Nursing Team, The Royal London Hospital, England

This article presents some of the main findings from a study using an interpretative phenomenological approach to explore searching for meaning in the lives of 15 people who had experience of cancer. The findings offer an understanding of this searching activity and what it can teach us about the personal story of pain and suffering. For the participants in this study this sense-making process moved beyond reflection to one that engaged the whole person.

It was a search that led each person living with the often hidden reality of pain and personal suffering to question aspects of their taken for granted world. While participants spoke of the pain of the disease and treatment, they also shared personal stories of the hidden losses and separation they faced and the loneliness of illness that others were unable to understand or comprehend. The experience of pain and loss did not occur in isolation but was influenced by many other life issues. Having illuminated the sometimes overlooked personal experience of pain, the findings offer some insights into better understanding and responding to the personal story of illness.

Cancer Nursing Practice. doi: 10.7748/cnp.2018.e1521


Quinn B (2018) Making sense of pain and loss: searching for meaning while living with cancer. Cancer Nursing Practice. doi: 10.7748/cnp.2018.e1521

Peer review

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


Conflict of interest

None declared

Published online: 28 August 2018

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