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Lived Experience of Survivors of Leukemia or Malignant Lymphoma

Persson, Lena PhD, RNT; Hallberg, Ingalill Rahm PhD

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Individuals (n = 18) in remission from acute leukemia or highly malignant lymphoma were asked to narrate their lived experience of falling ill, of being under treatment, and life following this event. The transcribed texts were analyzed from a phenomenological-hermeneutic perspective, expanded by their medical and social history as related in interviews. The analysis revealed 3 themes: (I) Believed in life, fought for it and came through stronger; (II) Life went on, adapted and found a balance in the new life; (III) Life was over, felt out of control and lost belief in life. Participants in the first 2 groups viewed their quality of life as improved and stated that the struggle had been meaningful and that the experience had made them grow, as a person, related to the experience of gaining new insight or strength. The third group of survivors viewed their quality of life as worse. They found no meaning in their experience and evaluated the situation with bitterness. Thus the core of living through having acute leukemia or highly malignant lymphoma seemed to be to find meaning with it and the profound crisis it meant to them. To help people retell their experiences may be one way of processing this life-threatening disease and treatment and may be one way to developing a sense of meaning and to regain balance in life.

Department of Health Sciences, Kristianstad University, Kristianstad, Sweden (Dr Persson); and the Department of Nursing, Lund University, Lund, Sweden (Dr Hallberg).

Corresponding author: Lena Persson, PhD, RNT, Department of Health Sciences, Kristianstad University, SE-291 88 Kristianstad, Sweden (e-mail: Lena.Persson@staff.hkr.se).

Reprints: Lena Persson, PhD, RNT, Department of Health Sciences, Kristianstad University, SE-291 88 Kristianstad, Sweden.

This study was supported by grants from the County Council of Kristianstad, Sweden, and from George Danielsson's Research Fund for Hematological Diseases.

Accepted for publication March 10, 2004.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.