Living Past Your Expiration Date: A Phenomenological Study of Living with Stage IV Cancer Longer than Expected
Cynthia Levine, PsyD, is a 2008 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Seattle.
- Mary Wieneke, Ph.D. (Committee Chair)
- Ned Farley, Ph.D. (Committee Member)
- Judith Gordon, Ph.D. (Committee Member)
cancer, phenomenology, death, dying, awareness of mortality, mortality, life and death, women
More treatment options exist today for persons diagnosed with terminal cancerextending lives longer than expected though there is little known about the psychosocial needs or resources for these individuals. This study describes the experience of living past the expiration date and still living with Stage IV cancer. A transcendental phenomenological approach was used to elucidate vivid expressions of this experience in a sample population of five Caucasian women. The women survived beyond their prognoses of an earlier expiration are not close to imminent death and are still living with incurable breast cancer metastases. The aim of this phenomenological inquiry is to illuminate the themes and essences of this phenomenon in hopes of expanding comprehension of the challenges this growing population confronts. Data was collected through individual open-ended, unstructured in-depth interviews. At a second meeting each woman, having been asked to find or create an expressive representation of their experience, verbally described their creations in an unstructured dialogue. All interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Through the methodological processes of bracketing, phenomenological reduction, imaginative variation, and synthesis, the themes and essences that surfaced revolved around the constancy of change and duality. Five core themes emerged from the data: awareness of mortality; interaction with medical systems and treatment; living on a roller coaster; feeling different from others; cancer invades and changes how you live. All of the themes are interrelated and together capture the complexity of the lived experience. Living with dying longer than expected is an experience that profoundly impacts every aspect of these women’s lives. It catapults them into a new paradigm where they have to renegotiate life daily. Each woman’s lived experience is both unique and shares collective threads. The essences that emerge from the combined strands are a continuum of hidden suffering and the varying dimensions of fortitude that are experienced while living in a liminal time and space between life and death. Facing mortality all the women accept the challenge to live fully and maintain hope but in their vulnerability few are able to sustain the feeling that the good times outweigh the terrible times. The electronic version of this dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center www.ohiolink.edu/etd.
Levine, C. (2008). Living Past Your Expiration Date: A Phenomenological Study of Living with Stage IV Cancer Longer than Expected. https://aura.antioch.edu/etds/793
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