The following article features coverage from the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) 2019 Annual Congress. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s conference coverage.

ANAHEIM, CA — Parents of children with cancer face complex and traumatic circumstances that greatly disrupt their family’s life. Many studies have reported on what challenges parents confront in the course of their child’s cancer journey; however, little is known about how they cope with everyday life. Study results presented at the Oncology Nursing Society 44th Annual Congress described how parents use the Internet to build a support system.

Developing coping strategies and finding meaning in experiences can help parents sustain themselves and support other family members. Increasingly, parents of children with cancer are using the Internet to share their experiences, producing narratives that offer insight into their everyday life and the issues related to their psychosocial well-being.

To date, exploration of parents’ use of the Internet has focused on the reasons for and types of online communication. Little is understood about how parents seek to cope during difficult circumstances. Qualitative research about childhood cancer can be difficult due to the sensitivity of the topic, time constraints, and reaction bias. In this study, Jill M.G. Bally, RN, PhD, of University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, and colleagues delved deeper into how parents narrate their experiences through online interactions to gain new understandings of parental experiences after a child’s cancer diagnosis.

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Dr Bally and colleagues used a narrative approach to explore the experiential accounts of parents of children with cancer shared publicly via the Internet. The investigators sought to improve understanding of parents’ everyday experiences of caring for a child with cancer, and illuminate how meaning making and coping are influenced by online communication. Attention was paid to how parents tell their family’s story and make sense of their experiences.

In this qualitative study, 23 online accounts of parents of children with cancer were analyzed. The researchers included blogs or personal stories publicly accessible or shared on organizational websites. Posts were written in English in the last 10 years by parents of a child up to 14 years old who received any type of cancer diagnosis and was living in Canada.

The researchers conducted initial readings of narratives and developed a coding framework and thematic coding of narrative content. Of the 23 online accounts, 6 were blogs and 17 were personal stories. The narrative author was the mother in 14 cases, the father in 4, and both in 5.