Many adolescent and young adult (AYA) survivors of childhood cancer are dealing with late effects of the cancer and its treatment.
The aim of this study was to explore how AYA survivors cope with their childhood cancer experience and its long-term consequences.
This is a descriptive qualitative study in which 21 semistructured interviews with AYA survivors of childhood cancer were conducted. A thematic analysis was conducted by a multidisciplinary research team and supported by NVivo 10.
Five coping strategies, which facilitated in living a normal life, of which some were developed during their cancer experience, were identified: (1) focusing on the “here and now,” (2) refraining from discussing the cancer experience, (3) recalling and preserving positive memories, (4) redefining the impact positively, and (5) consolidating and preserving a sense of togetherness.
Even long after completing treatment, the cancer experience remained deeply ingrained in AYA survivors' lives. Although they did not perceive their survivorship as a large problem in their current lives, coping with being a childhood cancer survivor did take effort. The deployment of specific coping strategies helped them to remain focused on the positive outlook in life and to deal with the long-term physical and psychosocial consequences of the cancer experience aimed at ultimately leading a normal life.
Implications for Practice
This study emphasizes the current individual frame of reference of the AYA survivor as the point of departure for psychosocial support. Healthcare professionals are advised to acknowledge and respect the value and function of the AYA survivors' coping strategies used.