Introduction: Significant problems in clinician-patient communication have been described in the oncology literatures. Advanced stage non-small lung cancer, a devastating disease, can cause the communication between survivors, significant others, and clinicians to falter. To date, however, no studies have used qualitative methods to examine experiential aspects of living with non-small cell lung cancer. Nor have any studies evaluated the tools survivors might use to repair some of the damage caused by living with this disease. Methods: Exploratory, two-part qualitative design. Results: Survivors of non-small cell lung cancer live with multiple fears and losses. These include a diminished sense of self, the loss of health, fears of pain in a future tainted by the threat of death, and increased feelings of alienation due to the loss of previous sources of meaning in life. These experiences significantly affect cancer survivors abilities to communicate with clinicians and significant others. Conclusions: Survivors of non-small cell lung cancer often have difficulty sharing their experiences with others not suffering a similar affliction. Through their narratives with other survivors, however, patients are better able to initiate a biopsychosocial mechanism which enables them to create a cognitive map. This cognitive map helps survivors share their experiences with others, thereby repairing some of the damage caused by this disease, including the harm done to their communication with other people.
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