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Coping Simultaneously With 2 Stressors: Immigrants With Ovarian Cancer

Mizrahi, Ilana MA; Kaplan, Giora MA; Milshtein, Ellen MA; Reshef, Batia (Piki) MA; Baruch, Gilad Ben MD

doi: 10.1097/01.NCC.0000305697.20497.4f

The dual adjustment to being a cancer patient and an immigrant involves major changes in life and might be a severe experience. This study set out to describe the experience of women who have come to Israel from the former Soviet Union and are coping with ovarian cancer. It focused on illness narratives as presented by 8 patients with cancer at stage III. Our findings indicated that the dual process might have different implications according to the meaning attributed by the patient to the illness situation. Viewing the illness as one more burden among other difficulties, such as language barrier, was a prism through which patients experienced their vulnerability in coping with the illness. Alongside a helplessness pattern, we found indications of interviewees' perceiving advantages in their status as immigrant cancer patients, by dealing with that problem alongside other difficulties. They showed a "fighting spirit" in coping with the illness. Immigration can have a moderating effect on patients' experiences, and the 2 stressors do not necessarily accumulate. Our findings indicate that patients' meaning to the illness experience was a "litmus test," which indicated the way patients would describe their coping stages. This may have potential as a clinical marker of psychological vulnerability.

Authors' Affiliations: Unit for Research on the Psycho-Social Aspects of Health, The Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, Tel Hashomer (Ms Mizrahi, Mr Kaplan, and Ms Milshtein); The Gyno-Oncology Department, Tel Hashomer (Ms Reshef and Prof Ben Baruch); Social Work Department, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer (Ms Reshef); and Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University (Prof Ben Baruch), Tel Aviv, Israel.

Corresponding author: Ilana Mizrahi, MA, 32 Hagefen St, Shoham 73142, Israel (

Accepted for publication August 16, 2007.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.