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Being in the Situation of a Significant Other to a Person With Inoperable Lung Cancer

Persson, Carina PhD(c); Sundin, Karin PhD, MS, RNT

doi: 10.1097/01.NCC.0000305763.89109.60

Little is known about how significant others experience their own situation when a family member becomes seriously ill. To illuminate the meanings of significant others' experiences of their situation after a family member had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, we analyzed narratives from 12 significant others, using a phenomenological hermeneutic approach. Findings revealed 4 themes: feeling dislocated in life, being in an altered relationship, being in a struggle, and feeling secure. When reflecting on these findings, we considered the transition theories and works of Ricoeur and Lögstrup. The significant others' experiences indicated a transition process because of the changes brought about by the diagnosis of lung cancer and a struggle to endure and overcome difficulties and distress on the way to regaining a smooth functioning life. Furthermore, the diagnosis of lung cancer had altered the relationship toward the next of kin and meant not only feelings of increased closeness but also loss of intimacy and reciprocity. The significant others suffered in this process of transition, and healthcare professionals, who recognize the World Health Organization's definition of palliative care, may consider the findings of this study useful when reflecting on their care of families.

Authors' Affiliations: Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden (Ms Persson); Department of Nursing, Umeå University, Campus Örnsköldsvik, Sweden (Dr Sundin).

Corresponding author: Carina Persson, PhD(c), Karolinska Institutet, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, 23 300, S-141 83 Huddinge, Stockholm, Sweden (

Accepted for publication February 12, 2008.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.