Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Victoria Menzies

Second Advisor

Debra Lyon

Third Advisor

Suzanne Ameringer

Fourth Advisor

Annemarie Conlon


Clinicians and researchers know that women experience distress related to the diagnosis of and treatment for ovarian cancer. A review of the literature revealed that while there is interest in the topic, distress is inconsistently defined and measured. Women have been reported to have a variety of distress experiences including the challenges of late diagnosis and the treatment regimen, communication difficulties with healthcare providers, and concern about the effect of their diagnosis on their loved ones. Without information directly from women, assumptions predominate about what the experience is like and what they would find helpful from support persons. Women’s perceptions about distress was identified as a gap in the knowledge leading to the present study which asked “What do women with ovarian cancer want their spouse/significant other, family, friends, and healthcare providers to know about their experience of distress during diagnosis and treatment?” A qualitative method, Grounded Theory as outlined by Glaser and Strauss in 1967 was chosen to guide this IRB approved study. Twelve women participated in audiotaped interviews contributing data for analysis using the constant comparative method. Six common themes or subcategories emerged across all the interviews and resulted in a conceptualization of the experience as an “existential assault.” Though individual experience differed, abstraction and conceptualization of the data revealed the common themes as (a) “out of the blue like lightning”; (b) “no stone left unturned”; (c)“knowing what I don’t want to know and not knowing what I want to know”; (d) “watching you, watching me- we are both afraid”; (e) “talking yet not talking, about death”; and (f) “now I have to take care of me.” Participants expressed the need for professional support people who contribute their efforts to cure, but who also listen to the participant’s need to manage and control their own experience and to live in ways that give their life meaning and purpose. The experience of distress for the participants was intensified by the needs of those in their social network (spouse/significant other, family, friends, and healthcare providers) who also experienced distress, at times requiring participants to provide support for those who would be expected to be providing support.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2014

Included in

Nursing Commons