This study included thirty-three participants. Participants were women aged 29–58 years. The majority of women (n = 17) were educated to diploma level. Whilst some participants (n = 16) had stage III cancer, the majority (n = 22) had no family history of breast cancer. All women included were married and were working in the role of being a housewife.
Our content analysis resulted in two main categories: Constructive support and lack of support. Our main category of constructive support included 3 sub-categories related to receiving support from family, peers, and nurses. Lack of support related to the 2 subcategories of lack of spousal support and lack of sociocultural support.
Main category: Constructive support
This main category captured participants individual feelings in relation to receiving constructive support during the COVID-19 pandemic. This constructive support was perceived to be received from family, peers, and nurses.
Sub-category: Family support
Women with breast cancer were supported by family members, including parents and siblings during the COVID-19 pandemic. They considered their families to be the most significant source of support.
"About 70% of my family members have given me morale and hope. They are always by my side. For example, now that my father does not work two days a week because of Corona, this is my strength of heart. "She was my mother. If I did not have this emotional support, I would be completely isolated."
"I told my siblings about the severe pain I had in my breast. They told me not to be afraid of getting Corona. We will come with you everywhere. It is okay that Corona is everywhere.”
Sub-category: Peer support
Participants enjoyed support from their peer groups both virtually and in person during the COVID-19 pandemic. Communicating with their counterparts appeared to offer them hope.
"Because of Corona, it is not possible to have a group meeting. WhatsApp has a group. We named it permanent friends, very well because we all have the same breast cancer. We no longer compare ourselves; we do not feel weak because we are all the same and have the same disease." "Maybe we can better support each other."
"When I communicate with other women who have breast cancer in the hospital, even though there is a mask on their face, but I understand their feelings and see that there are other people in the world like me, I hope for life that I am not the only one who has breast cancer."
Sub-category: Nursing support
Women with breast cancer perceived strong support from nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, nurses were broadly perceived by participants to be supportive in providing them with both informational and psychological support.
"When I was on chemotherapy, the nurses' training and guidance helped me, the nurses gave me information about low-fat diet and walking and proper physical activity ... Now I thank the nurses for giving me the necessary information about the coronavirus, of course they explain about the care that a woman with breast cancer should take to avoid contracting the virus."
"My mother got Corona and died. At the same time, my mother was mourning. The mass inside my chest became very painful. I went to the hospital. I was both mourning my mother, and I was afraid of getting corona myself. "I was crying ... when I went to the hospital I was crying, the nurse spoke to me and said you came to the hospital for treatment, the important thing is that you get well and go home, if you give up you lose, your cancer should not defeat you"
Main Category: Lack of support
In this main category women with breast cancer express their feelings in relation to a lack of support during the COVID-19 pandemic. This lack of support was predominantly spousal and sociocultural in nature.
Sub-category: Lack of spousal support
Participants reported that following a mastectomy, they were often faced with a lack of support from their spouses. This lack of support caused feelings of powerlessness at times.
"When the doctor said I should have a mastectomy, my husband said he wanted to remarry. He said a woman who does not have breasts is no longer a woman! "She is no longer a woman, I felt helpless."
Sub-category: Lack of sociocultural support
During the COVID-19 pandemic, women were often subjected to unfounded compassionate social behavior by relatives, neighbors, and neighbors.
"I notice the weight of others' words and their pitying behaviors. I am crushed, my pride is broken. Because I see relatives and neighbors all talking about me with pity and compassion ... I heard our neighbor says about me that this woman has cancer "Because he goes to the hospital for treatment, it is possible that he will get Corona, I feel very sorry for him."
Some participants believed that because of common cultural misconceptions in both culture and society, they were trapped in the cultural taboo of cancer. As a result, they experienced negative cultural consequences such as enduring the burden of cancer in isolation.
"Culturally, it is difficult to relate to other people in the community about a patient with breast cancer! Chemotherapy causes changes in the body that make us patients look different. People think cancer means the end of life and let me tell you - breast cancer it is stigma and breast cancer are taboo in our country.”
"It's very difficult to talk about it with others. Even now, because of Corona, communication with other people in the community has become difficult, and in addition to what I said, it has actually been an advantage for them to isolate us women with breast cancer."