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A qualitative study of the trauma and posttraumatic growth of multiple myeloma patients treated with peripheral blood stem cell transplant


Objective: The study was conducted to understand the emotional impact of multiple myeloma, as well as the impact of its principle treatment, peripheral blood stem cell transplant (PBSCT). The absence of psycho-oncology research literature on this population prompted the need for a hypothesis-generating investigation. Thus, a qualitative design was used to construct a theoretical model of the trauma relating to diagnosis and treatment of myeloma. The study also incorporates the important period of reflection and growth following treatment.

Methods: The sample consisted of 3 women and 3 men treated for myeloma at a New York City-based cancer treatment center. Data from individual interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. After extensive review, the data were categorized into groups of repeating ideas, themes and broad theoretical constructs.

Results: A five-construct model emerged from the data analysis that integrated a model of trauma and growth presented in earlier work (Auerbach et al., 2006). These constructs roughly correspond with stages of illness, but do not necessarily imply a linear process, as suggested by stage models. The first construct is diagnosis. Patients receive the news that they have multiple myeloma. Initial reactions are discussed and a treatment plan takes form. In the second construct, treatment, patients highlight the physical and emotional hurdles confronted throughout treatment. The third construct, network of safety, presents social factors that play a role in comforting patients throughout illness. Patients recognize the importance of a strong support system during their experiences. In the fourth construct, recuperation, physical energy is regained after an arduous recovery period. This contributes to higher spirits and a motivation to reengage with life. The fifth construct is reflection and new existence. Patients strive to balance a new reality that relapse and death are inevitable, along with their need to live a meaningful life. Many do not yet appreciate how their disease has impacted them, but describe how their interpersonal lives and perceptions have changed, both positively and negatively.

Significance of results: Limitations of the study, future directions for research and clinical implications are discussed.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author: Jacqueline Fine Dahan, Yeshiva University, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461. E-mail:
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Palliative & Supportive Care
  • ISSN: 1478-9515
  • EISSN: 1478-9523
  • URL: /core/journals/palliative-and-supportive-care
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