The experience of young adult cancer patients described through online narratives
BACKGROUND: Young adults are often faced with challenges related to relationships, employment, housing, and emotional development. Experiencing cancer during this time complicates the developmental processes and creates a need for communicating concerns and discussing issues. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences and gain a better understanding of young adults affected by cancer (YAACs) by examining their online narratives (also known as Web logs or blogs). INTERVENTIONS/METHODS: Inclusion and exclusion criteria were used to identify eligible Web sites. The Web site that most corresponded to the selection criteria was chosen for analysis (Planet Cancer, http://www.planetcancer.org/). The blog content generated in July 2011 was collected. The blogs were written by a total of 34 female and 12 male writers and included 136 (by female) and 28 (by male) blog entries. Researchers conducted a descriptive qualitative examination of blogs to explore YAACs' experiences during/after cancer. RESULTS: At the end of the data analysis process, 10 main themes were identified: physical burdens, future prospects, isolation (physical and psychological), guilt, mortality, images of cancer, creating a positive attitude, healthcare, online social interaction, and cancer survivorship. CONCLUSIONS: The Internet provides young cancer patients with a space in which to express themselves and to share experiences with those who are of similar age and in similar situations. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Blogs can be particularly helpful when patients are isolated or physically unable to interact with other people because of treatment requirements or physical deterioration.Future studies should investigate other types of Internet cancer communities and how they can benefit the development of Internet-based support networks for YAACs.