Stories that heal: Understanding the effects of creating digital stories with pediatric and adolescent/young adult oncology patients

Stories that heal: Understanding the effects of creating digital stories with pediatric and adolescent/young adult oncology patients
This qualitative study aimed to explore if and how the creation of digital stories can be used as a therapeutic tool for children/young adults with cancer and their family members. Digital storytelling comprises multiple modalities (ex. music, narration, photos) to tell a story.
Participants were children/young adults from 5-39 years old who had either undergone treatment or were currently in treatment for a pediatric malignancy. They also included family members of cancer patients/survivors. Participants were assisted in making a digital story on iMovie through about 3, 2 hour sessions. They then underwent an interview to discuss the experience of making the story. Data analysis was with a hermeneutic approach, which aimed to deepen understanding of the effect of making a digital story on the participants.
Participants found that making the story was effective in helping others to understand their experiences. Those who were further out from treatment found that it helped them to heal or move on, whereas children on treatment enjoyed the distraction the experience provided. Many participants were surprised to find the therapeutic value in making a digital story. They reported that making the story helped in understanding and making sense of what they had experienced.
This was a small study with only 16 participants, who had a wide range of diagnoses, ages and distance from treatment. The researchers identified the different therapeutic effect of digital storytelling on those who were in treatment and those further from it. However there was limited interpretation on differences in age, diagnosis and prognosis.
This study suggests that digital storytelling may be a helpful adjunct therapeutic intervention for children and adolescents who are experiencing cancer, whether it is themselves or as a sibling.