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The Experience of a Diagnosis of Advanced Lung Cancer: Sleep Is Not a Priority When Living My Life

Suzanne S. Dickerson
Eman Abu Sabbah
Patricia Ziegler
Hongbin Chen
Lynn M. Steinbrenner
Grace Dean
ONF 2012, 39(5), 492-499 DOI: 10.1188/12.ONF.492-499

Purpose/Objectives: To describe common practices and shared meanings of sleep-wake disturbances in individuals with newly diagnosed non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) before treatment and evaluate their preexisting sleep disturbances.

Research Approach: Open-ended interviews of patients newly diagnosed with lung cancer.

Setting: A Veterans Administration hospital and a comprehensive cancer center in the northeastern United States.

Participants: 26 patients newly diagnosed with NSCLC who chose chemotherapy treatment.

Methodologic Approach: Interpretive phenomenology based on Heideggarian hermeneutics.

Main Research Variables: Meaning of diagnosis on life experiences and sleep practices.

Findings: Participants described four related themes: (a) the diagnosis as devastating yet not surprising, (b) treatment as hope for more time, (c) keeping life normal, and (d) sleep patterns as long lived. The constitutive pattern that linked the themes was: sleep is not a priority when living life after a diagnosis of lung cancer.

Conclusions: Although participants did not complain about sleep difficulties, they described a history of sleep disturbances and poor sleep hygiene. Participants focused their trust on the treatment, giving them more time to follow their priorities and ignoring the effects of sleep deprivation on their quality of life.

Interpretation: Healthcare professionals may design interventions to encourage keeping life as normal as possible, focusing on improving sleep, which may ultimately prolong patients' lives.

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