Aim. The aim of this qualitative study was to describe from the perspective of 10 women (aged 39–69 years), their experience of living with breast cancer.
Background. Although there is increasing research into a variety of aspects associated with breast cancer, there is a continuing need for research to increase nurses' understanding of how women experience living with newly diagnosed breast cancer.
Design/methods. Following ethical approval, open-ended interviews were analysed, using methods influenced by Grounded Theory. Verifiability and empirical grounding of the theory was established through use of the constant comparative method.
Findings. Existential issues arose as an important aspect of living with newly diagnosed breast cancer. The will to live emerged as the central theme. All energy was channelled into a tenacious fight for life. Furthermore, results revealed other aspects in the women's awareness of living with breast cancer, such as their experiences in relation to emotional reactions, bodily physical changes, their female identity, meaningful activities and their social network.
Conclusions. An understanding of how women experience their new and changed life situation is important to the support nurses give in the process of healing. Nurses need this knowledge to be better able to assist women and their families in their development of coping strategies.