Hi friends! My name is Sarah Hulse, and I’m a rising senior in the University Honors College. I am a Psychology major with a Certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine through the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. This is my second and last year participating in the Brackenridge Fellowship, and as I prepare to graduate, it’s the first of many bittersweet lasts in my undergraduate journey. Pursuing research with the support and guidance of UHC faculty, including our fellowship leader Dr. Brett Say, has been critical to my growth as a student and researcher. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside this year’s cohort in developing how we talk about, think about, and write about our research!
This summer, I am continuing my work studying experiences of the war metaphor in women with metastatic breast cancer alongside Dr. Margaret Rosenzweig in the School of Nursing. The language of the war metaphor is prevalent, being presented frequently in conversations surrounding cancer and particularly breast cancer. This is the language we hear when people say, “you’re fighting cancer,” “you’re battling,” or even “you’re a warrior.” Although these terms are used widely and frequently in regard to cancer, studies (known prior to the initiation of our work in 2020) have not examined what these terms mean emotionally for women with metastatic breast cancer (MBC). A diagnosis of MBC – breast cancer that has metastasized in other areas of the body – contains chronic and terminal implications that are not typically inherent in diagnosis of early stage breast cancer. It is important to acknowledge the differences in emotional distress and psychological experience that occur due to differently staged diagnoses.
My research is interested in understanding the emotional experiences of patients with metastatic breast cancer, beginning with usage of the war metaphor and its relation to emotional distress. We have conducted a qualitative assessment of audio recordings of a semi-structured interview including questions about the impact of the war metaphor in the context of experiences with MBC. This permits an examination of the metaphor’s use in emotion regulation, which allows us to better understand the experience of emotional distress in MBC and how that distress can be alleviated. The interview format also allows for unique insight into participants’ lived experiences, which is critical to increasing sensitivity and understanding regarding the use of the war metaphor among patients who it may affect negatively.
During the Brackenridge Fellowship, I will focus on writing my Bachelor of Philosophy thesis centered around this study of the war metaphor and drawing upon fields of psychology, philosophy, and medicine. I intend to pursue a career as a physician and have particular interests in primary care, preventative care, and women’s health. Pursuing this qualitative study has given me a new appreciation and insight into patients’ lived experiences with illness, and I am eager to share this understanding with others via my thesis. This thesis will be prepared under the advisement of my research mentor Dr. Margaret Rosenzweig in the School of Nursing and my BPhil thesis advisor Dr. Anna Marsland in the Department of Psychology, allowing for a true interdisciplinary approach to research. I am excited to represent my own disciplines while gaining the nuanced perspectives of my peers and working toward shared goals.
Thank you to the University Honors College, my research mentor Dr. Rosenzweig, my thesis advisor Dr. Anna Marsland, and my cohort of Brackenridge Fellows for making this experience possible!