The purpose of the project was to determine if terminally ill cancer patients' perceptions of various dimensions of time vary systematically with the length of time since diagnosis and as compared to a control group. The project focused on descriptions of temporal experiences among cancer patients in varying stages of illness. It was postulated that the length of time that the individual has had to adjust to the crisis of terminal cancer would be directly related to the temporal components identified.
Various dimensions of temporal experience were measured. A sample of terminally ill cancer patients was obtained by collaboration with selected physicians who were supervising the medical care of the individuals. The sample was limited to those individuals not currently hospitalized. Only those individuals cognizant of their terminal status were included. The individuals with terminal cancer were matched on the variables of age, sex, and general socioeconomic status with a control group of individuals who were not experiencing a health-related crisis.
Differences between the cancer and the control group were identified on selected temporal variables. Individuals with cancer reported a shorter future temporal perspective, reported more time pressure even though they also said that they had more free time. In addition these individuals were more curious about the time following their death. Few differences were identified on the basis of length of time since diagnosis.
Plans for future research include expanding the sample size and comparing the terminally ill cancer individuals to other persons who are involved with death, e.g., suicidal individuals, aged individuals.
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