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Liminality as a Dimension of the Experience of Living with Terminal Cancer

Willig, C. ORCID: 0000-0001-9804-9141 & Wirth, L. (2018). Liminality as a Dimension of the Experience of Living with Terminal Cancer. Palliative and Supportive Care, doi: 10.1017/S1478951518000536


Objectives: This paper is concerned with the phenomenology of death awareness within the context of being diagnosed with terminal cancer. The objective of the research presented in this paper is to provide a deeper insight into terminally ill cancer patients’ engagement with their mortality.

Methods: The analysis presented here forms part of a wider project which involved conducting a metasynthesis of 23 phenomenological studies of the experience of living with the awareness of having terminal cancer published between 2011 and 2016.
Results: The metasynthesis identified four master themes which represent distinct experiential dimensions of living with terminal cancer. This paper focuses on one of these themes, liminality, in order to provide novel insights into the structure of death awareness whilst living with terminal cancer.

Significance of Results: The results suggest that liminality describes an experiential space from within which terminal cancer patients encounter a new relationship with their existence. Liminality offers opportunities for both connection (e.g. with the natural world) as well as disconnection (e.g. from loved ones and others who still have a future) and therefore contains the potential for suffering and distress as well as for joy and a sense of fulfilment. This understanding of liminality can help health care professionals provide psychological support for this client group.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is published in a revised form in Palliative & Supportive Care, This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Cambridge University Press.
Publisher Keywords: liminality, living with advanced cancer; metasynthesis; death awareness, phenomenology of cancer
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0254 Neoplasms. Tumors. Oncology (including Cancer)
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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