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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • narrative;
  • nursing;
  • phenomenology research report;
  • social support

dickerson s.s., alqaissi n., underhill m. & lally r.m. (2011) Surviving the wait: defining support while awaiting breast cancer surgery. Journal of Advanced Nursing67(7), 1468–1479.

Abstract

Aim.  This paper is a report of a descriptive study of the common meanings, shared experiences and practices of social support of women within the days between breast cancer diagnosis and treatment initiation.

Background.  Support needs, types of social support and support outcomes during and after breast cancer treatment have been explored worldwide. However, to promote women’s psychological wellbeing it is essential to understand how women define support in the highly stressful period initially following diagnosis.

Methods.  Secondary analysis of narrative texts using interpretive phenomenology from 18 women in the Midwestern United States newly diagnosed with breast cancer who were interviewed in 2005 for a study of women’s pretreatment thought processes.

Findings.  ‘Surviving the wait for surgery by balancing support needs to maintain a hopeful outlook’ was the overarching pattern linking six other related themes: (1) controlling access to information for self and to others, (2) knowing which supportive network members to access, (3) controlling anxiety through distraction to maintain hope while waiting, (4) being in good hands and comfortable with decision (provider support), (5) protecting others through concealment and being strong to maintain hope and (6) accepting care from others vs. maintaining a nurturing role.

Conclusion.  Implications for nurses working with women in the days following breast cancer diagnosis include assessing women’s definitions and availability of support; respecting varied needs for informational support; providing a supportive clinical environment; educating clinicians, family and friends regarding unsupportive responses within the cultural context and validating women’s control and balancing of support needs.