School for Social Work
The purpose of this study was to explore what effects participation in breast cancer support groups and activism had on the lives of breast cancer survivors. The effects of activism and support group participation on healing and the meanings women made of their experiences were documented through women's voices. Themes of general support and outlook on life were also explored. Through the use of in-depth, open-ended, qualitative interviews, twelve women were invited to tell the stories of their illness, activism, and healing. The findings of this study confirmed previous studies, which document the importance of support for breast cancer survivors in their healing process. The support of family and friends, among others, was vital for study participants. Support groups were particularly helpful because respondents found that other breast cancer survivors had a better understanding of what they were going through. Breast cancer activism had positive effects on participants' healing processes. The importance of supporting other breast cancer survivors and of contributing to efforts to eradicate breast cancer was reflected in each of the women's narratives. The idea of integrating activism into traditional support groups was largely supported. Finally, despite the negative consequences of the disease, the majority of the study participants felt that their breast cancer experiences led them to make positive changes in their lives.
Burnworth, Elizabeth M., "Breast cancer survivors' views of how support groups and activism have affected their healing process" (2007). Masters Thesis, Smith College, Northampton, MA.