In this autoethnography, I explore the companionship experience of someone supporting a cancer patient who is endeavoring to thrive in the face of this disease. A wide range of studies has been conducted on the emotional and social issues relating to cancer and specifically to breast cancer. Appropriately, most of the research relating to the personal narrative focuses on the stories of the person who has been diagnosed with cancer, and limited research has highlighted the perspective and experiences of their companions. My primary goals for this autoethnographic research are to: (1) Begin to answer the question: What role do we take when cancer becomes a reality and how do we provide helpful companionship? (2) Provide a template for personal narratives for companions, and (3) Share a path toward transformation for those that want to thrive. Autoethnography was selected as the qualitative inquiry method to gain meaning and understanding of the role of a companion to a person experiencing cancer. Most qualitative research methodologies are directed toward the study of others; however, in this case the primary focus of the research design is on self. This autoethnographic account of my experience as a companion to someone with cancer highlights the importance, both for you and the one you are supporting, of using your voice, owning your space, writing your story, and building a sense of community.


cancer, companionship, thriving, autoethnography

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Bruce Lilyea has extensive experience in leadership, process improvement, project management, community building, and research, and has held a wide range of industry certifications. Dr. Lilyea has a broad background in entrepreneurial, governmental, and corporate business and is currently employed in a process improvement role for a Fortune 100 company. In addition to his Ph.D. in conflict resolution with a concentration in organizational conflict, Dr. Lilyea earned a B.S. in Accounting, an MBA with additional coursework in international economics, and a Graduate Certificate in qualitative research. As an adjunct professor since 2008, he has taught courses in qualitative research, leadership, economics, and various business-management topics. His research interests include value optimization, environmental management, social responsibility for organizations and individuals, constructive conflict, and building community. Dr. Lilyea serves on the editorial review board for The Qualitative Report, is a Taos Associate, regularly writes and speaks in the academic space, and is actively involved in his community. Please direct correspondence to lilyea@nova.edu.

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