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Child cancer survivors


By Caitlyn Spencer

Psychology major Joanne Park, reviewing the literature for her Honours thesis on child cancer survivors, found that there was a wealth of research on the subject, but the results were contradictory.

“Some found older age at diagnosis caused more problems, some found the opposite,” she recalls. Dissatisfied by the current research, she opted to focus instead on what sorts of problems different ages at diagnosis produced.

“My hypothesis is that younger age at diagnosis produces more unmet needs of a practical nature, such as financial stability,” she explains. “Conversely, diagnosis in one’s teens produces more unmet needs of a psychosocial nature. Those diagnosed at an older age remember the experience more clearly.”

Park has been working on her Honours thesis since the spring of 2011, thanks to the help of a PURE grant. She is grateful for the extra time she had to work on her, but admits transitioning into the regular school year presented challenges.

“I’m so grateful for the chance that PURE gave me to get a head start on my research,” she says. “All the time spent over the summer helped me to plan and prepare for this research, getting a lot of the hard parts out of the way. Since now I need to balance my thesis with my other school work, I’m not able to put in as many hours for research as I would like to, though it’s teaching me to manage my time.”

She hopes her results will guide programs that offer assistance to child cancer survivors. “When I was deciding what to study, I knew I wanted to do something that directly helps people,” she says. “A lot of research is indirect; you discover something, and it’s new knowledge, but you can’t practically apply it right away. In health-related clinical psychology, we can use our results to mold the programs we work in.”

Park says that working with Janine Giese-Davis as her supervisor has given her opportunities for hands-on research. Besides doing the literature review, getting ethics clearance, and beginning to send out the surveys over spring and summer, Park also assisted Giese-Davis with her research projects.

“I’m really lucky, because a lot of people pick what they want to do and after four years realize they don’t actually like it, but I think I want to do this for the rest of my life,” she says.

To find out how you can apply for a PURE grant, click here. The deadline for 2012 applications is February 10.