Meaning of Illness and Spirituality in Ovarian Cancer Survivors

Betty R. Ferrell

Stephany L. Smith

Gloria Juarez

Cindy Melancon

ONF 2003, 30(2), 249-257. DOI: 10.1188/03.ONF.249-257

Purpose/Objectives: To describe spirituality and meaning of illness in survivors of ovarian cancer.

Design: Ethnographic study based on seven years of natural correspondence among survivors of ovarian cancer and a support newsletter.

Sample: 21, 806 letters, cards, and e-mails received from survivors of ovarian cancer from 1994-2000.

Methods: Analysis was based on the Quality of Life (QOL) Ovarian Cancer Instrument. Data were bracketed and assigned within a table according to QOL themes.

Main Research Variables: Spirituality, meaning, QOL, and cancer survivorship.

Findings: Spirituality was relied on heavily as a coping mechanism, as well as a method of deriving meaning from the cancer experience. Data from survivors of ovarian cancer validated previously established meaning in cancer themes and identified eight new themes specific to meaning in ovarian cancer survivorship.

Conclusions: The nature of ovarian cancer implicates specific characteristics that alter the meaning of QOL and survivorship. Spirituality is an important component of QOL and contributes to the process of deriving meaning from the ovarian cancer experience.

Implications for Nursing: Knowledge of the unique survivorship issues of patients with ovarian cancer can enable nurses to improve their care for these women.

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