Coping During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Experiences of Complex Cancer Survivors

Marlyn A. Allicock

Tiffany Suragh

Rikki Ward

Aiden Berry

Simon J. Craddock Lee

Bijal A. Balasubramanian

COVID-19, complex cancer survivors, coping, spirituality, resilience
CJON 2023, 27(6), 681-687. DOI: 10.1188/23.CJON.681-687

Patients with cancer and multiple chronic conditions (complex cancer survivors) are vulnerable to the negative impacts of COVID-19. However, their experiences and coping strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic have not been extensively studied. A mixed-methods design was used to assess coping strategies and protective responses taken to minimize COVID-19 infection. Participants were drawn from a cohort of complex cancer survivors from a pragmatic clinical trial. Participants reported high adherence to recommended protective behaviors, and risk was assessed based on comorbidities, not cancer status. Most did not experience significant disruptions in cancer-related or primary health care but experienced pandemic-related emotional stressors. Participants managed the impact of the pandemic using spirituality, support from social networks, and coping lessons from their cancer experience.


  • Spirituality, family, and previous illness coping strategies can help complex cancer survivors navigate the negative impacts of a pandemic. 
  • Cancer care can be improved by assessing the presence of factors that bolster coping. 
  • Interventions that draw on survivors’ cancer experience, spirituality, and social networks can augment coping during emotional stressors like experiencing a pandemic.
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