This qualitative study examines the experience of haematological cancer as described by ten people who have been through leukaemia or lymphoma and a bone marrow transplant. The focus is on the interaction of these participants with this challenging experience and the meaning it had for them. The descriptions of their thoughts, feelings and actions as they negotiated the period from diagnosis to treatment and survival reveal that these people brought both the present values in their life, as well as a life-long pattern of dealing with adversity, into their confrontation of a life-threatening illness. Issues of personal meaning and agency (the capacity to act and control valued aspects of one's life) were found to be paramount. These results are then discussed with a view to their implications for patient care.