To explore the meanings assigned to the experience of receiving chemotherapy.
An oncology outpatient clinic in a university hospital in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Ten women with breast cancer who experienced chemotherapy for the first time.
Semistructured interview using a grounded theory approach.
Women described three dimensions of their experience with breast cancer and chemotherapy: "living in it," "living with it," and "moving on." Existential and situational meanings were an integral part of their experience. The existential meaning seemed to be present in varying degrees of intensity throughout the treatment, whereas the situational meanings were predominant at the beginning of the treatment phase and became less important as the treatment progressed.
The intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions of the chemotherapy experience as well as the capacity to move on evolve within a context of both situational and existential meanings.
The study results suggest the potential value of exploring each woman's inner world of meanings in relation to her sense of self, relationships with others, resources, and coping strategies during treatment for breast cancer. Because existential and situational meanings are an integral part of women's experience, the nurse's role is to create an environment that permits and facilitates dialogue about these dimensions of meaning.