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Blogging Through Cancer: Young Women’s Persistent Problems Shared Online

Keim-Malpass, Jessica PhD, RN; Baernholdt, Marianne PhD, RN; Erickson, Jeanne M. PhD, RN; Ropka, Mary E. PhD, RN; Schroen, Anneke T. MD, MPH; Steeves, Richard H. PhD, RN

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e31824eb879

Background: Many young women have turned to illness blogs to describe their lived experience with cancer. Blogs represent an untapped source of knowledge for researchers and clinicians.

Objective: The purpose of this qualitative, exploratory study was to describe the life disruptions caused by cancer among young women, as well as to understand the facilitators and barriers in accessing healthcare services during and after active treatment.

Methods: Sixteen Internet illness blogs were analyzed among women, aged between 20 and 39 years, diagnosed with cancer. These blogs were analyzed based on phenomenological qualitative methods and thematic analysis.

Results: There were 4 dimensions of persistent problems that were articulated in the narratives of the young women without any relief. They included pain and fatigue, insurance and financial barriers, concerns related to fertility, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress and anxiety.

Conclusion: The young women’s narratives capture fear, uncertainty, anger, and the debilitating nature of these persistent issues. Many of the women expressed their lingering physical, psychosocial, and emotional problems.

Implications for Practice: Online illness narratives are a naturalistic form of inquiry that allows nurses to understand the experience of the patient through their own words and accounts. This study provides a foundation for nursing-based interventions that transcend traditional clinic experiences.

Author Affiliations: School of Nursing (Drs Keim-Malpass, Baernholdt, Erickson, and Steeves), Department of Public Health Sciences (Dr Ropka), and Department of Surgery (Dr Schroen), University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Jessica Keim-Malpass, PhD, RN, School of Nursing, University of Virginia, PO Box 800826, Charlottesville, VA 22908-0826 (

Accepted for publication February 3, 2012.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.