Young Women's Experiences with Cancer: An Internet Ethnography

Malpass, Jessica Keim, School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Steeves, Richard, School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Baernholdt, Marianne, School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Erickson, Jeanne, School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Ropka, Mary, PBHS Public Health Sciences Admin, University of Virginia
Schroen, Anneke, Department of Surgery, University of Virginia

Purpose: The purpose of this exploratory qualitative study was to describe the disruptions in the life caused by the cancer among young women with cancer, as well as the facilitators and barriers in accessing healthcare services during active treatment and survivorship. Patients and Methods: Internet illness blogs were analyzed among women diagnosed with cancer between age 20 and 39. They were analyzed based on internet ethnographic methods and thematic analysis based on line-by-line coding of the narratives and construction of themes and meanings. Results. The main research finding was the presence of distortions of time as the young women transitioned into a period of limbo, which often culminated in a confrontation with their own mortality before they were able to move on with their lives. There were also four 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 narratives shared on illness blogs offer an online place for expression of emotion, information exchange and online social support. Emotional catharsis in the young women's narrative elucidated the experiences of transition through diagnosis, treatment, and beyond that allow a better understanding of their emotional and psychosocial needs.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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