Currently in the United States there are more than 13 million individuals living with cancer. Nearly one quarter of these survivors are parents to one or more minor children. Though the literature examining the experience of parents diagnosed with cancer while raising young children has grown over the last two decades, little attention has been paid to parents living with advanced cancer moreover the voice of fathers from this body of work is nearly absent. This paper presents a grounded theory study that explores how men diagnosed with advanced cancer understand and navigate their roles as fathers of young children. In-depth, face-to-face interviews were conducted with 11 fathers diagnosed with advanced cancer and currently raising children under 18 years of age. The analysis revealed that when these fathers were diagnosed with advanced cancer their roles changed and the financial pressures mounted. Concerns for their children permeated their cancer experience and influenced their treatment decisions as well as their motivation to survive. Change, uncertainty and loss were woven throughout their experiences as these fathers described the challenge of "teeter-tottering between hope and despair" while striving to live and parent in that place of hope. Their desire and eventual ability to live in and parent from that place of hope exemplified resilience. A theoretical model of the protective strategies utilized by these fathers as pathways toward resilience was constructed. This model identifies the primary variables that are a part of fathering through advanced cancer and provides a framework for understanding the dynamic and complex process of resilience experienced by these participants.Understanding both the risk and protective factors that shaped these fathers' resilience can inform the development and implementation of supportive resources for these families as well as guide future research. In addition, this study addressed a gap in the literature by including facing cancer currently living in the United States and thus sheds some light on this country's social and institutional policies that may impact a father's resilience.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2013. Major: Social Work. Advisor: Elizabeth Lightfoot. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 195 pages, appendices A-E.
Lundquist, Melissa Ann.
"Teeter-tottering between hope and despair": fathers' resilience in the face of advanced cancer.
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