Supporting Hope in Midlife Cancer Survivors
Problem: Cancer patients lack information and support needed to make the transition to survivorship. This problem was addressed by testing a psycho-educational group intervention, the Mid-Life Directions Workshop, for its effect on hope and quality of life in midlife cancer survivors. Participants: Twenty-six midlife adults (23 women, 3 men, mean age = 54.3 years, range 40-65) with breast cancer (n = 19), colorectal cancer (n = 4), lung cancer (n = 2), and malignant melanoma (n = 1) stages I, II and III were recruited from two hospital-affiliated Cancer Centers in the Northeastern United States. Mean time since completion of active primary treatment was 11.5 months (SD = 6.67, range, 0-28 months). Most participants were non-Hispanic (96.2%) and white (100%) with some college or a college degree (88.5%). Method: A multimethod experimental design randomly assigned 17 participants to the treatment group, receiving the workshop in six 2-hour sessions, and 9 participants to the control group, receiving a nutrition program in six 1-hour sessions. Hope was measured pre- and post-intervention using the Herth Hope Index as was quality of life using the Quality of Life Instrument, Patient/Cancer Survivor Version. Written reflections were created by treatment group participants post-intervention. Findings: The quantitative measures revealed a significant increase in hope (p = .047) for the control group. The treatment group reported positive effects on hope and quality of life by means of written reflections. Six themes emerged: 1) examining what is, 2) feeling connected, 3) accepting what is, even the painful, 4) embracing one's life experiences, 5) exploring new possibilities, and 6) moving forward with enthusiasm. Implications: The Mid-Life Directions Workshop demonstrated positive effects on hope and quality of life for this group of midlife cancer survivors. The richness of the qualitative findings highlights the importance of multimethod design for future studies. The Nutrition Program also merits further study. This study provides an increased understanding of interventions that may support hope in midlife cancer survivors following active primary treatment.