Losing a part of life: experiences of cancer survivors accessing treatment and sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic

K. E. Wickersham, K. E. Morrill, M. Lopez-Pentecost, S. P. Heiney, J. J. King, P. Madhivanan, R. Hirschey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To explore experiences of sheltering in place and accessing treatment during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic among survivors with cancer receiving tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapy. Methods: Participants from two pilot studies evaluating TKI therapy use in the Southeastern United States during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020) were interviewed. Identical interview guides were used across both studies to assess participants’ experiences accessing cancer treatment, sheltering in place, and coping during the COVID-19 pandemic. Digitally recorded sessions were transcribed professionally and checked for accuracy. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize participant sociodemographics, and a six-step thematic approach was used to analyze interview data and identify salient themes. Dedoose qualitative research software was used to manage and organize qualitative codes, themes, and memos. Results: Participants (n = 15) ranged from 43 to 84 years of age, and were mostly female (53.3%), married (60%), and survivors with hematologic malignancies (86.7%). The research team identified five salient themes: Participants followed pandemic guidelines, Variable impact on well-being, Common feelings of fear, anxiety and anger, No barriers to accessing therapy and medical care, and Faith and God as powerful forces for coping. Conclusions: The conclusions of the study provide several implications for survivorship programs or clinics for supporting survivors who are taking chronic TKI therapy during COVID-19, including enhancement of current psychosocial support efforts for cancer survivors or development of new programs tailored to the unique needs of a survivor during a pandemic, such as focused coping strategies, modified physical activity programs, family/professional role changes, and access to safe public spaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCancer Causes and Control
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Cancer
  • Cancer survivors
  • COVID-19
  • Targeted therapy
  • Tyrosine kinase inhibitors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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