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Fathers Facing Advanced Cancer: An Exploratory Study

Journal title
Journal of social work in end-of-life & palliative care
Publication year
Lundquist, M.

Adults who are living with cancer while raising young children are faced with distinct challenges particularly when that cancer is advanced. While the literature examining parental cancer continues to grow, very little has focused on families facing advanced cancer and the father’s perspective is nearly absent. To address these gaps, grounded theory methods were used to study the experiences of 11 fathers living with advanced cancer while raising minor children. The participants were all married with between one and six children living in their household. Semistructured, in-person interviews revealed concerns for their children permeated the "ordeal" and these fathers described the ongoing challenge of "teeter-tottering between hope and despair." The fathers used key protective strategies to counterbalance the weight of the barriers to achieve resilience throughout the cancer experience. Primary barriers were characterized as physical impairments, uncertainty, and financial strain. Fathers described relying on flexibility in their roles as fathers, open communication patterns, use of supportive resources, and the ability to find meaning in their experiences as crucial to fostering resilience. Recommendations include interdisciplinary family centered interventions that consider gendered parental roles as well as financial burden.

Research abstracts