Evid Based Nurs 7:29 doi:10.1136/ebn.7.1.29
  • Qualitative

Children with cancer and their families believed and expected that symptom suffering was necessary to overcome cancer

 Q How do children with cancer and their families experience cancer symptoms?


Grounded theory and illness narratives.


Participants’ homes and inpatient and outpatient paediatric cancer units in western Canada.


39 children with cancer at varying stages (age 4.5–18 y, 54% girls, 95% Caucasian) and their families. All children received chemotherapy alone or in combination with surgery, radiation, or bone marrow transplant.


Data were collected from 230 individual or joint interviews with mothers (117 interviews), fathers (46 interviews), siblings (48 interviews), and children (103 interviews); and 960 hours of participant observation of children and their family members. Audiotapes and field notes were transcribed, and data were analysed using constant comparison and illness narratives.


Children and their families described 5 common beliefs and expectations. (1) Short term pain for long term gain emphasised how children and their families equated cancer with suffering, and the belief that suffering was necessary to fight the cancer. “Fighting symptoms” was more tangible and less frightening to children than “fighting cancer.” Parents and …

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