The Impact of Childhood Cancer on Young Adult Survivors
Merriman, Bridgette. “The Impact of Childhood Cancer on Young Adult Survivors”, Boston College, 2020. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:108790.
This thesis investigated the impact that cancer has on young adult survivors of childhood malignancies. Existing studies explore varying physical, psychosocial, and psychological, late effects experienced by survivors of childhood cancer. However, there exists a gap in survivorship literature; young adults, and young adult survivors of childhood cancer in particular, are understudied compared to adult and pediatric survivors. Moreover, most studies address objective, clinical, aspects of cancer survivorship. They rarely focus on survivors’ subjective experiences. Yet, previous research suggests that positive cognitive appraisals of adverse life events such as cancer mitigate detrimental psychosocial and psychological symptomologies later in life. This study adopted the life course perspective to investigate the subjective experiences of young adult survivors of childhood cancer. It examined how events such as cancer diagnoses and transitions back to school are interconnected throughout one’s entire life history, rather than analyzing these specific occurrences as isolated events. Participants were invited to fill out two existing quality of life surveys and take part in an interview to explore areas of survivorship previously identified as being specific to young adult survivors. An analysis of interview transcripts and survey data revealed three major events that occur after being diagnosed with a pediatric malignancy. Furthermore, each participant not only recalled positive subjective experiences over the course of these checkpoints, but ultimately found positive meaning from their cancer experience. This thesis suggests that positive subjective experiences soon after a cancer diagnosis are critical in ensuring that patients have favorable conceptions of their journeys and their aftermath.