A Hope-Based Intervention to Address Disrupted Goal Pursuits and Quality of Life Among Young Adult Cancer Survivors

  • Carla J. BergEmail author
  • Robin C. Vanderpool
  • Betelihem Getachew
  • Jackelyn B. Payne
  • Meghan F. Johnson
  • Yasmeni Sandridge
  • Jennifer Bierhoff
  • Lana Le
  • Rakiyah Johnson
  • Amber Weber
  • Akilah Patterson
  • Sarah Dorvil
  • Ann Mertens


Over 70,000 US young adults are diagnosed with cancer annually, disrupting important life transitions and goal pursuits. Hope is a positive psychology construct associated with better quality of life (QOL) that focuses on goal-oriented thinking. We developed and tested Achieving Wellness After Kancer in Early life (AWAKE), a scalable 8-week app-based program consisting of educational videos, mood/activity tracking, and telephone-based coaching to promote hope and QOL in young adult cancer survivors (YACS, 18–40 years old). A two-arm RCT was used to examine the feasibility, acceptability, and potential efficacy of AWAKE (n = 38) versus attention control (AC; n = 18) among YACS within 2 years of completing treatment and recruited from two NCI-designated cancer centers. Outcomes including hope (Trait Hope Scale), QOL (36-Item Short Form Health Survey; Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General), depressive symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire-9), and substance use were assessed at baseline, 8 weeks, and 6 months. Participants were an average of 32.55 (SD = 5.45) years old; 75.0% were female, and 80.4% White. The most common cancers were breast cancer (28.6%), melanoma (16.1%), and leukemia/lymphoma (12.5%). High retention, engagement, and satisfaction rates were documented in both conditions; AWAKE versus AC participants rated video content as more relevant (p = 0.007) and reported greater likelihood of talking positively about the program (p = 0.005). Many efficacy change scores showed positive trends in AWAKE versus AC. Reorienting to one’s goal pursuits after cancer diagnosis and treatment is critical and may be supported through hope-based interventions. Findings suggest that the AWAKE warrants subsequent research testing its efficacy, effectiveness, and scalability.


Adolescent and young adult cancer survivors Survivorship Psychological factors 


Funding Information

This research was supported by Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute (P30 CA138292; Winship Invests Pilot Program; PI: Berg). This project was supported by services from the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center Behavioral and Community-Based Research and Cancer Research Informatics Shared Resource Facilities (P30 CA177558).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Review Boards at Emory University (IRB00086979) and the University of Kentucky (16-0751-P2H) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© American Association for Cancer Education 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carla J. Berg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robin C. Vanderpool
    • 2
  • Betelihem Getachew
    • 1
  • Jackelyn B. Payne
    • 3
  • Meghan F. Johnson
    • 2
  • Yasmeni Sandridge
    • 1
  • Jennifer Bierhoff
    • 1
  • Lana Le
    • 1
  • Rakiyah Johnson
    • 4
  • Amber Weber
    • 1
  • Akilah Patterson
    • 1
  • Sarah Dorvil
    • 1
  • Ann Mertens
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Rollins School of Public HealthEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Markey Cancer CenterUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  4. 4.Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of MedicineEmory University School of MedicineAtlantaUSA
  5. 5.Department of PediatricsEmory University and Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of AtlantaAtlantaUSA

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