Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Self-transformation as a factor in the self-esteem and well-being of breast cancer survivors

Diagnosis with a life-threatening illness can lead to many changes in one’s self. These changes, called self-transformation, are not well understood. The present study used triangulation of methods and measures to (i) describe individual differences in self-transformation among breast cancer survivors, (ii) examine factors associated with self-transformation in breast cancer survivors, and (iii) examine the relationships between self-transformation and self-esteem and well-being in breast cancer survivors and age-matched comparison women without cancer. Cancer survivors (n 60) participated in structured interviews and both survivors and comparison women (n 60) completed a set of questionnaires. Narrative analysis revealed three categories of transformation among breast cancer survivors: positive transformation, minimal transformation and feeling stuck. These groups differed by age, marital status and income, but not by disease or treatment variables. Breast cancer survivors in the positive transformation group had signi®cantly higher self-esteem and well-being in comparison with (i) survivors grouped as feeling stuck and (ii) age-matched counterparts without cancer. Cancer survivors who reported feeling stuck had significantly lower self-esteem and well-being than the other groups of survivors and lower well-being in comparison with healthy women of the same age. Findings provide support for the concept of self-transformation and a new understanding of disease, demographic and treatment factors associated with the concept. Findings also suggest that self-transformation may be a factor in the self-esteem and well-being of breast cancer survivors.