Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Health Sciences


Rehabilitation Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Dana Howell

Second Advisor

Dr. Carl Mattacola


Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis of women, with an estimated 232,670 new cases in 2014. With 89.2% of breast cancer patients surviving five years or longer, studies are needed to investigate the long-term impact of breast cancer on women and families (National Cancer Institute, 2014).

The purpose of this study was to examine, using a mixed methods approach, the impact of chemotherapy on mothering occupations for patients diagnosed with breast cancer. Thirty-one women (mean age=39.6, SD=5.79), with breast cancer of any stage, who were currently undergoing chemotherapy and had at least one child under the age of 18 living in the home, were recruited from a comprehensive breast cancer care center.

These participants completed the Fatigue Symptom Inventory Then Test, the Parent Disability Inventory, the FACT-G quality of life inventory, and a demographic questionnaire. Of these 30 participants, ten participants were selected using purposeful sampling to participate in semi-structured interviews focusing on the impact of chemotherapy on mothering occupations. Qualitative data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach (Corbin & Strauss, 2008) and quantitative data were analyzed using SPSS version 22 to determine descriptive statistics and correlations among variables.

After analysis, the central category that emerged from the data was “Keeping life the same while weathering cancer treatments,” which was developed from categories of learning, adapting, accepting support, growing and normalcy. Quantitative analyses found a correlation between fatigue and parent disability (Spearman rho correlation = -0.476, p < 0.05), quality of life and fatigue interference (-0.481, p < 0.001) and parent disability and quality of life (0.745, p<0.001). Implications for future occupational therapy practice are discussed.