Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Trisha L. Raque

Second Advisor

Maria T. Riva

Third Advisor

Heather N. Martin

Fourth Advisor

Erin K. Willer


Advanced cancer, Coping, Friendship, Humor, Oncology, Young adulthood


Young adults (i.e., age 18-39) only comprise 4% of the total cancer population, yet cancers in this group are commonly found at more advanced stages due to situational factors influencing delayed diagnosis including access to healthcare, quality health insurance and competing life demands that may hinder prioritization of healthcare. Young adults with cancer also face unique challenges including higher rates of psychological distress, which may contribute to increased risk of social disconnection in response to cancer. Research suggests that humor may be a helpful coping approach and communication mechanism for mitigating distress and discussing difficult topics. Grounded within the frameworks of Relational Cultural Theory and Communicated Narrative Sense Making Theory, this dissertation qualitatively explored how humor functions within a young adult friendship impacted by advanced cancer. The study sample included 12 friendship dyads, comprised of one young adult diagnosed with advanced cancer (e.g., Stage III or IV, recurrent, metastatic, or severe blood cancer) between the ages of 18 and 39 and a close friend of their choosing with no personal history of cancer. Participants completed a demographic questionnaire and engaged in a semi-structured dyadic interview exploring: 1) how humor promotes authenticity and mutuality in the friendship; 2) how humor may help prevent the relational paradox; 3) how humor functions in the meaning-making process about cancer and how humor may help young adults express this meaning to others; and 4) how humor use in this friendship context may differ from other supportive relationships. Results derived from Consensual Qualitative Research analysis revealed eight domains including Sociocultural Influence on Humor; Nature of the Bond; Maintaining Normalcy; Coping with Cancer-Related Distress; Navigating Conversations About Cancer; Resiliency Building; Evolution of the Relationship After Cancer; and Limits of Humor Use. Study findings contribute to the field of psycho-oncology by presenting an empirical description of how humor functions to help a young adult survivor cope with, navigate, and make meaning of an advanced cancer diagnosis within the context of a close friendship; dimensions which had not yet been adequately explored in the research literature.

Copyright Date


Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Megan E. Solberg


Received from ProQuest

File Format



English (eng)


248 pgs

File Size

2.6 MB


Psychology, Oncology