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Point of view - We must nurture hope

It may seem puzzling that BBC newsreader George Alagiah described himself as being a ‘richer person’ due to his diagnosis with stage 4 bowel cancer.

It may seem puzzling that BBC newsreader George Alagiah described himself as being a ‘richer person’ due to his diagnosis with stage 4 bowel cancer.

Following surgery and chemotherapy he was given the all clear and, on returning to broadcast journalism in November last year, he has reflected on his experience of illness.

Mr Alagiah’s comments reminded me of UK Oncology Nursing Society’s past president Natalie Doyle’s definition of ‘survivorship’ in which she talks about a duality of positive and negative aspects of living with and beyond cancer (Doyle 2008).

For many people, cancer is an arduous, debilitating and distressing journey, yet for others, the experience prompts a re-evaluation of life’s priorities, induces healthy lifestyle changes and re-energises and renews close relationships.

The need to respond to adversity brings out some people’s best qualities. This prompts the question: is there anything that we cancer nurses can do to encourage or facilitate this response? The answer must lie in our ability to contribute to the nurturing of hope.

Hope is a dynamic, multidimensional, subjective yet often elusive phenomenon that is integral to a meaningful life and a dignified death. Cancer nurses must deliver focused, individualised care to ensure that hope is maintained.

Mr Alagiah has written about living with and beyond cancer. His experience of fear and uncertainty together with gruelling, toxic therapies have prompted an enriched sense of self. This in itself should be regarded as a story of hope.

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About the author

Richard Henry is lecturer in cancer nursing at Queen’s University Belfast and UKONS president-elect.

Reference

Doyle N (2008) Cancer survivorship: evolutionary concept analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 62, 4, 499-509.

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