Palliative & Supportive Care

From “invincibility” to “normalcy”: Coping strategies of young adults during the cancer journey

BAUKJE  MIEDEMA  B.A., M.A., Ph.D. a1 c1 , RYAN  HAMILTON  M.S.E.S. a1 and JULIE  EASLEY  M.A. a1
a1 Dalhousie University Family Medicine Teaching Unit, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada

Article author query
miedema b   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
hamilton r   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
easley j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Objective: Little research has been undertaken regarding the psychological impact of cancer on those stricken during the young adult years. Specifically, research on the coping strategies of young adults with cancer is limited.

Method: In this qualitative, Grounded Theory study, we did not set out to examine coping; rather, it emerged as a major phenomenon in the analysis of interview data from 15 young adults with cancer.

Results: These young adults used various coping strategies to come to terms with the cancer diagnosis, management of the illness, its treatment, and treatment sequelae. The coping strategies varied considerably from person to person, depended on the stage(s) of the illness, and were rooted in their precancer lives. We were able to discern a pattern of coping strategies used by most participants. The prevailing goal for all participants was to achieve what they called “normalcy.” For some, this meant major changes in their lives; for others it meant to “pick up” where they had left off before the cancer diagnosis.

Significance of results: To aid the understanding of the issues that influence coping, we have developed a model to illustrate the bidirectional nature and the complexities of the coping strategies as they relate to the phases of the disease and the disease treatment. The model also affirms Folkman and Lazarus' coping theory.

(Received July 21 2006)
(Accepted August 27 2006)

Key Words: Young adults; Cancer; Coping strategies; Coping theory.

c1 Corresponding author: Baukje Miedema, Dalhousie University Family Medicine Teaching Unit, Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, P.O. Box 9000, Fredericton, NB, E3B 5N5, Canada. E-mail: