Facing up to cancer: the lived experience of being diagnosed with a life threatening form of cancer
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This Heideggerian phenomenological hermeneutic study explores the lived experience of those coming to terms with the diagnosis of a life-threatening form of cancer. It offers an interpretation of the narratives of eight adult New Zealanders, three men and five women, aged between 25 and 60 years of age who had been recently diagnosed. The study, based upon van Manen's (1990) six-step method, uncovers the experience of the person facing up to being told they have a life-threatening form of cancer within New Zealand society. It is informed by the writing of Heidegger. The study explores the meaning of cancer to the person involved and how this meaning affects them and their world. The study explores the changes within the person and how this change in the person subsequently changes the understanding they have of themselves and the world. The narratives of participants reveal a journey that is undertaken, a journey they thought they would never undertake and were not prepared to take. The cancer journey begins suddenly, is frightening in its intensity, towards a perceived destination of probable death. The real journey for many takes an unforeseen detour along the way, a detour of hope and eventual enlightenment. The final journey for all human beings will always end in death. The realisation that all human journeys must and do end in death and learning to live with the reality of this one fact in life is the major lesson learnt by those who experience the cancer journey. The journey is made more difficult and lonely by a society that wishes to fool itself that this journey does not happen or wishes to believe that one day this journey may be totally avoided. Society, and the people that make up society, need to face the reality of the cancer journey for many of its members in order to better prepare the person for the journey and to support the person while on this journey.