Struggling to Eat to Survive Cancer—Lived Experiences of Eating Among Adolescents and Young Adults Undergoing High-Emetogenic Chemotherapy

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Purpose: The purpose of this study was to provide in-depth understanding of adolescents' and young adults' (AYAs') lived experiences of eating when they are at home between high-emetogenic chemotherapy sessions. Methods: The study was guided by van Manen's hermeneutic-phenomenological methodology. Eligible AYAs were 15-29 years old, diagnosed with either oncological or hematological cancer, treated with high-emetogenic chemotherapy, and Danish speaking. AYAs were recruited from three university hospital departments. Data were collected using semi-structured in-depth interviews. Results: Thirteen AYAs, aged 17-29 years, participated in the interviews via telephone or face-to-face in their homes. The essential meaning of the phenomenon of eating can be characterized by the overarching theme "Struggling to eat to survive" and unfolded through the following three themes: "Cooperating with a deceiving body", "Capturing moments of eating opportunities", and "Being loved and cared for at home". Conclusions: Struggling to eat was essential for survival and a fundamental existential challenge that required reflection and consciousness. AYAs experienced their deceiving bodies as a major concern, which challenged their ability to eat and forced them to develop strategies to capture moments of eating opportunities. AYAs kept hold of doing "something" themselves to maintain the slightest control of their own lives and thereby assist clinical outcomes and cure. However, AYAs had to struggle with food and start viewing food as a friend, not an enemy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology
Pages (from-to)268-274
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

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