Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education


Autoethnography, Breast Cancer, five stages of transformation, narrative analysis, women


The American Cancer Society estimated a quarter of a million women would be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. For each of those, another ten women are living with or have survived this disease. At diagnosis, most women view their futures with dread. As with other extreme traumas, the diagnosis of breast cancer can bring profound transformation (Jackson, 1983; LeShan, 1994; O'Brien, 1995). In this study, seven survivors of breast cancer articulate their journeys through this disease and detail how they were able construct transformed lives. The women described how they turned tragedy into triumph. Individual interviews were conducted and were subjected to both narrative analysis (the analysis of their individual stories) and to analysis of narrative (a cross-story analysis) as described by Polkinghorne (1991, 1995). In the narrative analysis the details of each woman's journey are presented as individual stories to demonstrate the decisions and events that led to transformation. In the analysis of narratives, those stories were coded and group themes identified. This second stage of analysis revealed that a systematic transformation process was present in each narrative. Using autoethnography (Ellis & Bochner, 2000; Gravel, 1995) the story of the author (a three-time breast cancer survivor) was incorporated into the analysis and themes. A model is presented with five stages of transformation evident across all the narratives. This study will bring hope to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and to those who love, know, or work with them. This work also brings practical insight into the process of transformation. This perspective on transformation can be used to assist individuals and organizations to view crisis as a possible starting point for transformation.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access