Objective: Little research has been undertaken regarding the
psychological impact of cancer on those stricken during the young adult
years. Specifically, research on the coping strategies of young adults
with cancer is limited.
Method: In this qualitative, Grounded Theory study, we did
not set out to examine coping; rather, it emerged as a major phenomenon in
the analysis of interview data from 15 young adults with cancer.
Results: These young adults used various coping strategies to
come to terms with the cancer diagnosis, management of the illness, its
treatment, and treatment sequelae. The coping strategies varied
considerably from person to person, depended on the stage(s) of the
illness, and were rooted in their precancer lives. We were able to discern
a pattern of coping strategies used by most participants. The prevailing
goal for all participants was to achieve what they called
“normalcy.” For some, this meant major changes in their lives;
for others it meant to “pick up” where they had left off
before the cancer diagnosis.
Significance of results: To aid the understanding of the
issues that influence coping, we have developed a model to illustrate the
bidirectional nature and the complexities of the coping strategies as they
relate to the phases of the disease and the disease treatment. The model
also affirms Folkman and Lazarus' coping theory.