The increased use of bone marrow transplantation (BMT) to treat a variety of cancers has led researchers to study psychological functioning of BMT patients. The majority of studies conducted, however, has focused on adjustment after transplantation. Cancer patients' use of coping strategies before undergoing this procedure may also relate to levels of psychological distress. Our aims were (1) to provide normative coping data, controlling for situation-specific variables with a homogeneous sample, targeted stressor, and fixed time point, using the Ways of Coping Questionnaire; and (2) to identify coping strategies associated with distress before high-dose chemotherapy. Subjects were 49 patients scheduled to receive high-dose chemotherapy and an autologous bone marrow transplant. Consistent with previous coping research, we found that escape-avoidance was related to psychological distress on several measures. Item endorsement analyses of the escape-avoidance subscale suggest that patients may have used more passive than active avoidance strategies. Subsequent participation in a longitudinal study was not affected by initial levels of avoidant coping. © 1996 Plenum Publishing Corporation.