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“I Have Both Lost and Gained.” Norwegian Survivors’ Experiences of Coping 9 Years After Primary Breast Cancer Surgery

Drageset, Sigrunn PhD, Cand Polit, RN; Lindstrøm, Torill Christine PhD, Cand, Psychol; Ellingsen, Sidsel PhD, Cand Polit, RN

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000656
Article: PDF Only

Background Increased breast cancer survival means that many women live with long-term consequences of their cancer and treatment. Knowledge about their coping is important.

Objective This qualitative follow-up study describes survivorscoping experiences 9 years after primary breast cancer surgery.

Methods Seventeen of the 21 women interviewed 9 years earlier were invited to participate. Fifteen agreed and were interviewed individually between January and June 2015. Qualitative meaning condensation analysis was used.

Results Three themes emerged: (1) Changed life: some felt healthy and beyond cancer; others suffered from reduced energy, joy of life, and self-esteem. Being affected by a life-threatening illness made their fundamental values clearer. Using cancer experiences to help others was emphasized. (2) Positive thinking, distancing the negative: striving to maintain positive thinking and distancing themselves from insecurity and fear of recurrence. A step-by-step strategy was important to cope with their new life situation. (3) Need for understanding and recognition: support was experienced as necessary and challenging. Recognition of posttreatment ailments was emphasized. Being more socially selective and preferring positive people were essential.

Conclusions Cancer experiences changed the women’s lives. Their coping varied. Fewer but selected supporters were preferred. Understanding and recognition from others for the women’s changed life situation was essential.

Implications for Practice Healthcare professionals should prepare women for a changed life situation because of illness experiences and the adverse effects of treatments. The support and information offered must be adjusted to each woman’s individual needs, coping capacity, and life situation. Further clinical intervention studies are needed.

Author Affiliations: Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Department of Health and Caring Sciences, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (Dr Drageset); Faculty of Psychology, University of Bergen (Dr Lindstrøm); and VID University College of Applied Sciences (Dr Ellingsen), Bergen, Norway.

Correspondence: Sigrunn Drageset, PhD, RN, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Department of Health and Caring Sciences, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Inndalsveien 21, N-5009 Bergen, Norway (

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

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