PhD Graduates – Duran

Beyhan Duran PhD
Spring 2014

“Perception of posttraumatic growth as experienced by childhood cancer survivors: An existential hermeneutic phenomenological inquiry.”

Childhood cancer is a traumatic, life-threatening experience that poses profound challenges for the survivors and their family members, both during and after treatment. However, confronting death or dealing with a life-threatening illness may serve as a potential catalyst, an opportunity, or a facilitator to develop a positive transformation, psychological growth, and benefit-finding. Until recently, this growth phenomenon had not been studied in depth. The purpose of this research was to explore and understand the meanings of the various positive perceptions of childhood cancer survivors. Posttraumatic growth refers to the experience of positive change resulting from the struggle with a highly challenging life crisis. The philosophical underpinning for this study was the works of the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty. This research was guided by van Manen’s interpretive phenomenological method. The participants were eight childhood cancer survivors (five female and three male) whose ages at the time of the study ranged from 21 to 52 years and who were diagnosed and treated when they were between 5 and 21 years of age and off treatment from between 2 1/2 to 14 years. One of the female survivors had suffered from leukemia twice, when she was 3 and 16 years of age. The oldest female survivor, who was treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, later developed breast cancer, and needed a heart transplant. Thematic analysis revealed six major phenomenological themes and eleven sub-themes: (1) meaning-making–(a) the loss of naïve assumptions, (b) it could be worse; (2) changed values and life priorities–(a) prioritizing one’s life values and priorities, (b) life is precious, (c) becoming less-materialistic; (3) gained a unique perspective and philosophy on life–(a) acquired new life philosophy, (b) changed religious values and practices; (4) greater self-understanding–(a) cancer made me who I am today, (b) cancer made me a better person, (c) self-reliance, (d) cancer made me grow up faster; and (5) loss-gain dynamics (existential growth); (6) pay back to society. These findings suggest that cancer can become the best teacher for survivors to learn about themselves, life, and others. Life becomes more meaningful. These major growth domains were also closely linked to each other.

Pictured above (from left to right):
Dr. Regina Cusson, Dr. Cheryl Beck, Dr. Beyhan Duran, Dr. Carol Polifroni and Dr. Arthur Engler