The Journey of a Woman Experiencing Terminal Cervical Cancer

Monday, July 11, 2011

Theresa A. Kessler, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC
College of Nursing, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to describe the daily journey of a women living with terminal cervical cancer.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to examine the meaning of health as physical and emotional dimensions decline in a terminal illness.

Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative case study was to describe the journey of a thirty-five year old woman living with terminal cervical cancer.

Methods: The study involved an analysis of verbatim, transcribed, in-depth, open-ended interviews.  The researchers analyzed and interpreted the interviews to gain an understanding of the participant’s perspective of living with a terminal illness.

Results: The following main themes emerged: (a) acceptance of mixed blessings, (b) mission of hope for each day, (c) “badges of honor,” and (d) a desire for a legacy. The acceptance of mixed blessings included support from family and friends which led to the acknowledgement of changes in role fulfillment as mother and wife. The mission of hope for each day was an attempt to fight the battle and create hope. The participant used control to try and make daily situations more manageable. She tried to do everything she could to maintain her daily health. The theme of “badges of honor” came directly from the words of the participant. Although the physical markers of cancer may be viewed as negative side effects of cancer treatment by others, the participant felt that these were honorable badges of her daily journey through terminal disease. The last theme was a desire to leave a lasting impact on family, friends, and other women survivors of cervical cancer. The participant created ways of influencing each of these groups through dreams for family and friends and sharing with other survivors. Results highlight the experiences of this woman through the stages of anticipatory grief. 

Conclusion: Implications for the future include using this data to assist other women with terminal cancer and developing information to share with other survivors and family members. It is the entire family who travels along this journey with their loved one.