Thesis Title

Body Invasion: Cancer Survivorship and Quality of Life

Graduation Date

Fall 2012

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


John Lemmon, PhD

First Reader

Amy Backos, PhD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

David Sitzer, PhD


There is a lack of awareness about the experience effacing illness as a young adult. Disconnection exists between treating the body and attending to the emotional state of dealing with a health problem. The experience of a cancer diagnosis a. a young age is life changing. Physical and psychological complications result from not only the surprise of a cancer diagnosis but from the late effects of the cancer treatment. Since more individuals are surviving the initial treatment, more research is needed to learn about life afterwards. A need remains for additional investigation on how the diagnosis, late effects of treatment, and complications after treatment affect the emotional and psychological state of the person in their surviving years. Art therapy is a tool to bridge the gap in healing. Psychological follow up and art therapy address the emotional effects of this experience. In this study, quality of life and changes in the view of the self and the world in young adults surviving cancer is examined with the lens of Virginia Satir’s psychotherapeutic theory. Her two concepts, communication and connection between the mind, body, and feelings are present in the thematic application analysis of the mixed method approach. This research study reflects the quality of life at a time in survivorship of twelve individuals who were diagnosed with cancer between ages 19-34. Three sources of data administered at one session, the quality of life SF-36v2™ Health Survey semi-structured interview, and facial expression art therapy directive, help provide more understanding towards the experience of cancer. The results of this study indicate that the process is unique to each individual, but when survivor’s reflected on how they felt when they were diagnosed, in treatment and in the years surviving cancer, similar emotions amongst participants were present at each stage. Art therapy interventions use